With all the attention paid to the Patriots' new cult hero Rob Gronkowski, the accomplishments of New England's other crowd favorite and offensive leader may have been overshadowed a bit. ESPN.com's John Clayton thinks it's time to change that.
In a piece published Monday on ESPN.com, Clayton sets out to "re-educate everyone on the value of "The Welk," Wes Welker." He writes:
Although the 2011 season has been dedicated to the development of "The Gronk," Gronkowski's high left ankle sprain will re-educate everyone on the value of "The Welk," Wes Welker. Welker caught 122 passes for 1,569 yards, but his incredible totals were lost in the excitement of Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez revolutionizing the role of the tight end in a passing offense.
Gronkowski is expected to play, but the ankle injury should minimize his ability to get downfield and possibly allow the Giants to single him. When Gronkowski was in the locker room getting his ankle taped in the AFC Championship Game, a noticeable shift in the pass coverage happened on the field: Jimmy Smith, a tall Baltimore Ravens cornerback, tried to handle Hernandez, and Lardarius Webb stuck to Welker.
Gronkowski is so big and so tough to cover that he often is bracketed with a person dedicated to covering him underneath and another trying to prevent him from going deep. If Gronk can't be Gronk, Welker knows more will fall upon him.
"I know that I need to make some plays with those guys out of the game," Welker said when asked about the impact when one of the tight ends is missing. "They are definitely a big, integral part of our offense and everything that they do. If one of them is not in, you know the other guy has to step up and do some things out there. They have been great players for us all year. We're going to continue to lean on them through this game."
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