Chargers wary of Wes Welker's return

SAN DIEGO -- Wes Welker won’t be sneaking under the radar when the San Diego Chargers travel to Denver to face the Broncos in the AFC divisional round of the playoffs.

“He’s one of the best slot receivers of all time,” San Diego coach Mike McCoy said. “So his production, wherever he’s been, speaks for itself. So you’ve got to know where he is every play.”

Welker did not play in San Diego’s 27-20 win at Denver on Dec. 12 last year because of lingering concussion symptoms. As a precaution, the Broncos also held out Welker for the last two games of the regular season.

However, Welker practiced for the Broncos the past two weeks and is expected to play on Sunday.

Even though he missed three games this year, Welker has put up good numbers in his first season with the Broncos. Welker finished the regular season with 73 catches for 778 yards and 10 touchdowns.

In the first contest against the Chargers in San Diego, Welker finished with three receptions for 21 yards in a 28-20 Denver victory on Nov. 10.

“Wes has been a major contributor for us all season long,” Denver quarterback Peyton Manning said. “I thought our guys did a good job of stepping up by committee while he was out. You never know whose number is going to be called in a playoff game. You never know what happens, everybody’s got to be alert. I know Wes is excited to get back out there and start playing.”

The Chargers will use their own version of Wes Welker in practice to simulate the cat-quick receiver’s skill set in practice squad player Dan DePalma.

The 5-foot-11, 192-pound Verona, N.J., native returned to the Chargers six weeks ago. DePalma was placed on injured reserve during training camp with a shoulder issue and received an injury settlement, allowing him to return this season.

DePalma also played the role of Welker for the New York Giants’ scout squad during the team’s Super Bowl title run two years ago.

“It’s just film study, knowing his movements and the way he runs his routes, depths and getting all that stuff right,” DePalma said. “Every little thing counts for a defense, especially when it comes down to technique and every play.”

Safety Eric Weddle said the Chargers will use a couple of different guys on Welker this weekend.

“That’s going to be a challenge for us,” Weddle said. “He didn’t play the second game there, and a lot of people forget about that. So that’s another element that we have to deal with. But we’re excited about it. We want to go now.”