A Wes-less Offense

Discussion in 'PatsFans.com - Patriots Fan Forum' started by AndyJohnson, Jan 26, 2013.

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  1. AndyJohnson

    AndyJohnson PatsFans.com Veteran PatsFans.com Supporter

    I know there are a lot of Welker threads and discussions going on. I believe the sensible move is to keep Welker. But the intention of this thread is what do they do if Welker is let go.
    1) It would be silly to think the offense without Welker could continue to run the same scheme and be nearly as good. Welker is a once in a generation player, and no team has anyone who can step into his role, much less us being able to acquire one.
    2) I'm not big on the point of view that the offense isn't equipped to win in the playoffs or against good defenses. I think that viewpoint simply ignores a)that every team does worse vs good defenses and b)ignores the many good games as if they never happened. c) as soon as the offense has a bad game that means that team played the same style of D whether it did or not. I'm going to approach it from what could be improved in our scheme by a scheme change. Of course the caveat here is that improving on one of the best offense to ever exist is much easier said than done.
    3) The acquisitions can't break the bank, because the only point in moving on is the money.

    The offense we have run since 2007 has run through Welker. The route combinations play design and calls, gameplanning, and scheme were centered around Welkers ability to get open being the primary advantage we have (aside from TFB) on offense. Defenses start gameplanning by accounting for Wes. We have implemented hurryup, spread, 3 wide, 2 TE, and fit many different players around that central cog. We have had Moss as a great deep threat, Gronk as the record setting TE, had top 5 in history scoring offenses with Maroney, BJGE and Ridley at RB, and been one of the best offenses in NFL history all the while.
    The evolution of the offense without Welker will not be putting someone else in his role. You just can't do that effectively. Some player or group of players will take his spot on the field, but the role where the passing offense revolved around his function is done.
    The first step is that this will mean we need more weapons to spread the ball around to. The idea that the TEs can take a larger role is dubious because when they have played together their combined role has been greater than any TE duo in NFL history. It's like waiting for mortgage rates to go down, when they are the lowest in the history of the country. The idea that Hernandez becomes Welker is simply ludicrous. His value is being a mismatch with speed, quickness and agility as a TE. Put him at WR and you take all of that away, and make him medocre. The idea of running more to compensate is also faulty since we ran the 2nd most times in the league this year.

    The change that would take place would be to eliminate the role that the offense has revolved around and replace it with something else. No doubt we will stay a base 1/2/2 lineup because of Gronk and Hernandez. We are going to need to get another outside WR to replace Welker who can run every route, and be a traditional WR. Paired with Llllloyd, you will have 2 outside guys catching around 70 passes for around 900 yards a piece. The offnese will move somewhat to a more downfield throwing offense, with more running from traditional run sets rather than shotgun draw plays. The RBs will become a much bigger factor in the passing game. Different will be different, not necessarily worse, with one HUGE exception. In 3rd down and 2 minute situations we will be lacking the best weapon in football. We were #1 in 3rd down conversions this year, in large part because we have THE player in the NFL most likely to get himself open on 3rd down. This will be a challenge, and the result may be that we need to put TEs and RBs in the pattern more heavily on 3rd down, putting bigger risk on the sack. Additionally, Welker not only gets open better, but gets open QUICKER than anyone, so the pass rush risk increases as well.
    Positives? It has always troubled me that on days our offense does poorly it always seems to be 'just misses' on 3rd down, on plays we normally make that are the undoing. I could never pout my finger on what caused that. As I left the AFCCG it occured to me that while I felt the exact same way, we converted a bunch of 3rd downs. After looking back we were 7/15 which is a league leading level of 46% and there were at least 5 conversions that were drops, flukes or plays we always make. Thats when I realized, the problem wasn't missing 3rd down, it was needing to make so many of them because we spent the whole day moving in small chunks and being in 3rd down.
    This seems to happen from time to time, but iut seems to me, more often in big games. It may be possible that we have created such a potent offense relying on the short pass that we go into big games saying 'stick to what we do best' and create a game plan even more heavy on short passes, and running to 'stay on schedule' to down and distance, and therefore turn into a bend but don't break offense. Eliminating Welker could be addition by subtraction by forcing the coaching staff out of that strategy. I'm not sure I buy that myself.
    The other positive, frankly is really only theoretical, but I'll mention it. If we eliminate a highly paid offensive player, we can put more money into defense, leveling the field a bit to accept a lesser offense for a better defense. In reality we still need a WR, and the few bucks left over won't have much real impact on the defense.
    Please do not respond by discussing the merits of keeping Welker vs letting him go, but only about thoughts about what to do if he leaves.
  2. Brady2Moss

    Brady2Moss Rotational Player and Threatening Starter's Job

    Your point about us needing to convert a ton of third downs just to score a field goal is a good one and probably the biggest problem with our offense as is. Too many things can go wrong during our 12-15 play drives and usually they do in the playoffs.

    I'm leaning off my position that we should give Welker's money to a big play outside guy, instead I think they should let Welker walk if they can't come to a very team-friendly deal and use at the very least a second round pick on a wide receiver, maybe even a first round pick. They absolutely need to hit a home run on a receiver in the draft this year and one that can produce the 70 catches 900 yards you spoke about.

    Then use the remaining money (roughly 20 million) to resign Vollmer, Talib, and some veterans for the Defense. Despite the offenses struggles in this game, the defense still is a major liability because it constantly gives up momentum with long touchdown drives that usually offer no resistance in the playoffs. Both sides of the ball need to improve next year if we are going to win it again.
  3. supafly

    supafly PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

    #32 Jersey

    The only possible thing that I could even muster up is that I hope that the front office sees things as clearly, because I think that you make some great points about the future 3rd downs, etc.

    I don't think that the offense would be nearly the same, and if it is so clear to someone as idiotic as myself, I would think that the geniuses in the front office would already have figured that out.

    We've talked before about how efficient the offense currently is, so I for one do not want to see any major changes to it besides upgrading what they already have with Welker here.

    Going back to a more traditional downfield passing team with more running from the traditional formations will make the offense insanely more predictable in my opinion.

    Now the main question is whether Belichick and the front office guys see no prospect at all of continuing the same kind of offense or not, albeit to a lesser degree (in other words, someone else in Welker's place)?
  4. supafly

    supafly PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

    #32 Jersey

    They already need to address the WR position via the draft this year on some level, no matter what in my opinion. The main concern that I would have is whether that WR could immediately pick up this kind of system and all of its complexities enough to contribute what we need in 2013.

    So, not only would they have to hit a home run in the draft, they'd have to knock the ball in the very most perfect and sweetest spot imaginable. I think that's a gamble that needs to be taken, but you can't put yourself in a position to "need" that player to immediately produce next season. In many cases of the Belichick era, the position is targeted ahead of time, with room for learning curve and development, and rightfully so.

    That's what leads me to believe that not only do we need to acquire at least one draft choice at WR, we also need to retain Welker this year on the franchise tag in a worst case scenario. My worry is that the franchise tag may not be seen as an option for them, but I hope that I am wrong.
  5. andrewgarrr

    andrewgarrr Banned

    Thanks for the post.

    The biggest concern is durability with increasing age. Welker has proven that he can remain a durable and productive slot receiver throughout a 20+ week season. Is there any comparable player to compare productivity with age? Thoughts on durability?
  6. supafly

    supafly PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

    #32 Jersey

    I for one, don't think there is.

    Welker's durability is definitely to me, one of his single biggest positive attributes. I would seriously put him up with just about anyone in terms of being able to take the most viscious of hits and pop right back up like it's nothing.

    We hear of players throughout the NEP and the NFL in general (2 or 3 that come to mind) that people think could possibly overtake that role on a lesser level (some don't even give the doubt of the lesser level), but yet all 3 of those players have proven to have durability issues themselves on some extent.

    This situation is really incredibly interesting, and actually grows with each passing day. I would give anything to tap inside Belichick's mind on his thoughts as it pertains to this one issue. Is he considering the same kind of offense with another/other player(s)? Is he considering a change of scheme altogether? Did they simply play it cautiously over the 2012 and 2013 period regarding Welker and the use of the franchise tag? Are they waiting for his age to increase to get a better deal (not likely)? Are they themselves amazed that he can keep producing like this? Did they feel that the time was right to make a move on an upgrade to the WR2 and the 2 younger TE's last year as opposed to this year and the next?

    What the HELL is going on? :bricks:
  7. Sciz

    Sciz PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

    Lots of good stuff there. I definitely agree that if Welker is moving on, then the Pats should/will replace him with more of an outside receiver. My guy right now is Brian Hartline, but DeAndre Hopkins, Quinton Patton, and Markus Wheaton are all good late first to second round prospects that also bring a lot of that outside ability (among other WRs that either are likely out of the Pats' range or that I'm not such a big fan of).

    This does a few things. First of all, it would add another guy for the safeties to worry about. While I think Lloyd's impact on the safeties is a bit underrated, I don't think the safeties ever really worried about Welker, who made them pay like 4 times or something like that, or Branch, who teams had no trouble shutting down with one CB. If the Pats could get a legitimate outside receiver who can either draw a little safety attention or take advantage of single coverage, then that opens things up down the field, and getting 40 yards on one play is a lot easier than having to convert three third downs to get it. Of course, the ability to beat a single CB can also come in the form of comebacks, in a situation where a CB knows that he's not getting as much safety help because the safety has more guys to worry about, and therefore the WR gets a bigger cushion.

    In addition, I think that having that having two outside receivers along with the two tight ends would help in the running back passing game. While double coverage on an outside receiver would mean a CB plus a safety over the top, teams realized that a great way to slow Welker down was to put a slot CB to his outside and a linebacker in zone in the middle of the field. Cut outside, and the CB is right there. Cut inside, and the LB is there to either light Welker up or make a play on the ball. If the Pats don't have that slot presence, then that LB is going to have to go further down the field to guard against all of the deeper in-breaking routes. In theory, that deeper coverage opens things up for an RB to gain more yards after a dumpoff.

    In a way, it seems that the coaches were doing their best to prepare for life after Welker before it happened. It was reported that entering the season, Hernandez was going to be the "#1 receiver" and center of the offense. And it makes lots of sense. While he's not fast in a straight line, Hernandez's combination of cutting ability and size is probably unmatched in the NFL. Of course, we only got to see Hernandez as the center of the offense for one game since he got hurt and wouldn't be fully healthy until he gets some legitimate rest this offseason. So while we didn't get to see it in action, the coaches at least had some kind of plan for the offense to not center around Welker.

    And finally, I think that with the hypothetical loss of Welker, it's a great time for the coaches to reevaluate what they want to do at the slot position. If there's one aspect of Welker's game that's above and beyond other receivers in the NFL, it's probably his ability to take a pounding without missing time. With Edelman or some other different receiver taking over the slot duty, the Pats likely won't be nearly as lucky. I think they need to use that slot receiver to run routes more like the TEs, the 10 yard ins and the seam routes. They're not going to find another WR that can catch a 6 yard pass, get nailed by a linebacker, and get back up every single time.
  8. ivanvamp

    ivanvamp In the Starting Line-Up

    Andy, I think this is a good thread and a good topic to discuss, despite what you may think from the other thread.

    The fact is that it likely won't be too long before we actually do find out what the offense will look like without Welker. Even if they re-sign him, how long will he be with this team? Maybe 3 more years? At that point, he'll be a 34+ year old WR that has taken a huge pounding in this league. I cannot imagine at that point he'll be the focal point of the offense, even if he's still here. But there's probably a pretty decent chance he'd be gone by then anyway.

    I think the answer to your question is: It depends on what personnel the Patriots have here. If they acquired a Mike Wallace or Dwayne Bowe or (haha) Larry Fitzgerald, then the offense will likely feature a lot more downfield passes and probably fewer of those unstoppable option routes Welker runs. If, however, they went with an Edelman or other lesser receiver, they very well could go with a more run-oriented offense, with more screens, wheel routes to the RBs, and passes to the tight ends.

    We obviously have no idea what the personnel will look like three years from now. And we don't even know what the roster will look like for 2013. We would likely answer this question very differently if they land a Mike Wallace in free agency, or if they replaced Welker with Edelman and used Welker's money on defense.

    Too many unknowns at this point. But one thing I'm pretty sure of: they have a lot of talent on offense, and we have seen the Patriots evolve over the BB/TB era, so we know they can be successful doing a lot of different things.
  9. DocHoliday

    DocHoliday In the Starting Line-Up

    Very astute observation above the third down thing.

    We should be having more back to back first downs rather than these nailbaiting 2 yard runs, 3 yard pass, and 3rd and 5 faceoffs.
  10. IndianPat

    IndianPat On the Game Day Roster

    I sincerely hope that BB and the front office is preparing to introduce the kind of offense John Elway had during his two super bowl wins - Less Elway and more RB whose name I forget.

    Brady is a lethal passer and a deadly competitor. Hasn't it been two years since we lost a game by more than one score? Because the Patriots are so loaded in the passing game, the most obvious game plan of defenses has been to focus on just one player : Brady. He is so good that he easily outplays all of them except for one, every season. There is that one defense every year helped by special circumstances (this year the spl. circumstances were Gronk and the wind) since 2007 that has been able to DISRUPT their execution to defeat them.
    Make Brady less valuable to our offense and you have the beginnings of a Elway kind of team. The run game really got started this year and hopefully they will be even better next year. (It appeared to me that Patriots went away from their run game against the Ravens even before desperation time)
    I think you make Brady less valuable to our offense by taking Welker out of the equation.
  11. coolguy

    coolguy Banned

    Am i the only one that think the passing game while effective, is somewhat predictable?
    I think the offense was better when brady spread the ball out to 5 different receivers, because the defense didn't know who brady was going to throw to.
  12. DocHoliday

    DocHoliday In the Starting Line-Up

    If I recall it's been about a week.
  13. I.M. Fletcher

    I.M. Fletcher On the Game Day Roster

    There are two major negatives and two decent positives with Welker moving on.


    1. Welker was targeted more this past year than any other year with us, to the tune of 10.5 attempts a game. That is nearly impossible to makeup by simply adding another receiver, and Andy is right, you simply cannot move those catches to the TEs who already have exceptional catch rates. There is not one player you could bring in that will cover that, not even 80% of that, which is a big key to the fast paced offense and 3rd down conversation rate.

    2. Between Bradys incredible release time and welkers quickness, rarely do we see brady face a ton of instant pressure. Losing Wes will prove the mettle of our o-line alot more than we have seen in recent years. Brady is a brilliant tactician, and having Wes as his security blanket has saved him from a lot of hits in recent years.


    1. The screen game has for the most part disappeared from the pats playbook, outside of Wes's catch and run plays, with gronk and mankins pulling. These have become even less popular in the last two years. If Welker moved on, Vereens split out ability could be taken advantage of, and possibly edelman and Hernandez as well. With a more consistant 2-2-1 line up, we may be able to take advantage of the speed of our backs who have better breakaway ability than Wes.

    2. The team has never been younger and deeper on offense, is also in a position to add another through either free agency or the draft. The transformation is primarily done at this point, with wide receiver and qb being the only two left untouched. I believe the team has built a young nucleus around brady in order for the teams success to continue beyond his time here, so allowing him to get the most out of the people we have now. Holding on to wes will only continue to avoid the fact that they need to get youth infused in a position sorely needing it. With Wes in his early 30s and a step slower, there are plenty of places you can put 8-11mill in other positions that will both protect that future and set the present better than Wes will. With the teams two other top targets missing large chunks of the season, or banged up when they did play, Wes was needed to bridge the gap that much more. If they can return healthy, Wes's role will likely diminish naturally, which is not what you want from such an expensive resource.
  14. PATRlOT

    PATRlOT Banned

    I'm ok with letting Welker go AS LONG as he doesn't end up with a team like the Broncos, Seahawks, Packers or a top team like that.

    Of course we can't really control that... but still. I don't want it to come back hurting the Patriots if he ends up making another great team even greater.
  15. ausbacker

    ausbacker Brady > Manning. PatsFans.com Supporter

    #87 Jersey

    At receiver that's not really true is it? At receiver the team is razor thin. RB and TE on the other hand look stocked.

    Given the Patriots cap situation for 2013 and the coming seasons Welker may very well be a cap casualty. I'm fully preparing myself for that event (but am hopeful the Patriots and Welker meet in some middle ground).

    In regards to the offense, the NFL is about evolution. Without Wes Welker, the Patriots will find a way. That's what Belichick does.
  16. supafly

    supafly PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

    #32 Jersey

    You must be referring to Terrell Davis, who was Elway's RB during that era.

    You are correct, up until last week (28-13 loss) it had been 45 games straight where we either won or lost by within a score. That's remarkable, and really shows what this offense evolved into without Moss and the downfield threat. That is not only due to taking advantage of mismatches and making Welker to focal point of the offense, but also due to helping to get rid of the ball quicker, keeping Brady upright more, and taking advantage of higher percentage passes which lead to much less turnovers.

    While I agree very much with the thought of keeping the run game going more and having better balance, I think that while Tom Brady is leading this team, they will still mainly live/die with him as the main point of this offense. It's still our bread and butter, and that is still what defensive coordinators plan for all week. I don't think that we see any more of a balanced pass/run ratio than this year, when we were the 2nd highest running team per attempts in the league.

    There are some things to take from the Elway era, as you mentioned, such as the better balanced run attack of this past season, but that is where I personally believe that the comparison ends to be completely honest with you.
  17. supafly

    supafly PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

    #32 Jersey

    You aren't the only one, but you're also in the wrong significantly. No offense meant.

    For one thing, this offense cuts down on turnovers significantly, and we all know that is the one biggest deciding factor to any ballgame. They take advantage of so many different things with this offense that it'd be hard to replicate by going back to a more traditional downfield offense in my opinion.

    I don't personally agree on any level that we don't throw the ball around to enough different receivers either, as the following stats solidify that position:

    2007 record setting season:

    1.Welker 112
    2. Moss 98

    ---------major dropoff--------

    3.K.Faulk (RB) 47
    4.Stallworth 46

    2009 stats:

    1.Welker 123
    2.Moss 83

    ---------major dropoff--------

    3.K.Faulk (RB) 37
    4.Edelman 37


    2011 stats (post Randy Moss era):

    1.Welker 122
    2.Gronkowski 90
    3.Hernandez 79
    4.Branch 51

    2012 stats (post Randy Moss era):

    1.Welker 118
    2.Llyod 74
    3.Gronkowski 55
    4.Hernandez 51
    5.Woodhead (RB) 40

    The 2012 season also takes into account the "un-predictability" of the 2nd most rush attempts in the entire NFL. One must also take into account the fact that all of Gronkowski, Hernandez, and Edelman were significantly injured too as their individual numbers would all be much higher.

    There's absolutely NO doubt that Brady "spreads the ball around to the open receiver" much, much more than he did during the downfield stretch Randy Moss era, which was about 100x more predictable, caused more turnovers, and averaged about 7-10 less pts per game.

    It really put things into perspective to hear Belichick himself explain that "if one of Moss/Welker goes down we're screwed" (paraphrasing) due to the unbalance of that era. Those teams were so insanely one-sided it wasn't even funny.

    Now if you went back to the 2006 season, you'd see more of the same kind of balance that we have now, although on a much more in-effective level (24 pts per game) with much lesser numbers. The main reason why we were in such high competition was due to the defensive side of the ball yielding a meager 14.8 pts per game, which was the 2nd ranked defense in the entire NFL.

    2006 stats (pre-Moss):

    1.Caldwell 61
    2.Watson 49
    3.K.Faulk (RB) 43
    4.Brown 43

    Maybe that is more of what you mean, but it's hard to look at those stats in comparison to the post-Moss era where we've had just as good as balance, if not better, plus an additonal running attack currently, not to mention the most important factor of all---a consistant top 5 NFL historic offense which puts up 35 pts per game.

    As I said, the main focus of those years was giving up 14.8 pts per game on defense, as the defense carried us. That's also exactly why I am more than happy with the current offense, but am calling/screaming for better defensive play. It isn't the offense's problem because there is no problem. It's the defense that is not yet up to par.
  18. manxman2601

    manxman2601 Pro Bowl Player

    #24 Jersey

    Losing Welker would also have an impact on the OL. The run game would become more of a mainstay rather than a wrinkle to take advantage of nickel defenses, we'd likely see more base defenses and Brady would need more time in the pocket. Uncertainty over Vollmer, Cannon's inexperience and two oft-injured 30+ Guards would indicate that we should be looking at upgrades there sooner rather than later.

    And btw, this is one of the best threads I've read. Very informative.
  19. supafly

    supafly PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

    #32 Jersey

    As you mentioned regarding the OL, one of the strengths of this kind of attack is that it also covers up any weaknesses that we may have. In turn this makes our offensive line look very effective, our QB look very effective, and all of our other skill position players too. We're able to stick to the same kind of running scheme with many shotgun draws that tend to become big gainers. We don't have to waste personnel (which in turn takes advantage of even more personnel mismatches) on using blocking RB's or FB's most of the time.

    You mention some of the concerns on the offensive line with the likely moving on from Vollmer, and the likely replacement with Cannon, not to mention the banged up guards at times. I don't personally feel that this is really the time to mess around too much with what has obviously been working, and I certainly don't want to change up the quickness in which Brady gets rid of the ball either, as that is yet another major advantage. It could potentially extend his playing career, and we take less hits and pressures in the meantime, allowing the quicker/shiftier receivers their ability to take advantage of one-on-one matchups vs the slower LBs, not to mention the TEs taking advantage of the same thing + smaller secondary players.

    The cohesiveness looked very good on the offensive line for the most part this year, and once again we all have the luxury of not having to worry too much about that position going forward--which is certainly helped by the scheme and Wes Welker's focal point involvement. I don't want to have to change those concerns up, or add or change any of the weaknesses that are properly masked.

    The ball is spread around. The run game is once again a force. The QB is protected and moving the ball out quickly. The offensive line hides its weaknesses and does its job. The receiving targets are all heavily involved. We went back to getting the RBs screens and flat passes more again, like from the days of old. The hurry-up is extremely effective and averaging more plays than any other offense in the history of the game. The TOP has improved significantly. And most of all, they continue to set records in many categories, most importantly points scored, per season, and per game.

    All significant reasons that scream "Keep Wes Welker!!!"
  20. manxman2601

    manxman2601 Pro Bowl Player

    #24 Jersey

    I'm not really suggesting wholesale changes to the OL but with a strong draft class there is some room for improvement:

    1. RG. Depending on how the first round falls, there could be two, maybe three potentially elite OG's available If there aren't other options, I'm all for a massive upgrade at the position.

    2. If Vollmer leaves, at the very least we should bring in a high upside OT to compete with Cannon maybe even a major upgrade to him depending on how the Pats feel about Cannon. If Vollmer stays, then a value upside pick in the later rounds is all that is needed.

    As for keeping Brady getting the ball out quickly, to a degree it's inevitable. There'll be no-one who can get open as quickly as Welker can, hence a reason for upgrading the OL. But this can be mitigated to a degree with maybe Demps if he develops well, maybe a real quick twitch guy like Tavon Austin or my guy who I've mentioned before, Markus Wheaton, who, while no Welker, does have the short area quickness to get open but also provides the much needed deep threat.
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