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Josh McDaniels: Game plan reduced Wes Welker’s role

09.11.12 at 3:53 pm ET
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Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said Tuesday afternoon the reason behind the decline in playing time — and total targets — for wide receiver Wes Welker last Sunday against the Titans was because of the offensive game plan, not because of an overall shift in New England’€™s offensive philosophy.

Welker, who had 122 catches last season, was targeted five times and had three catches for 14 yards in the win over Tennessee. (It was the second-lowest output, yardage-wise, in his five-plus years in a New England uniform — he had one catch for 12 yards in the 2009 regular-season finale against the Texans.) But McDaniels said on a conference call with reporters that the game plan for the Titans called for the Patriots to try and exploit other matchups.

‘€œWe kind of decide those on a week-to-week basis. Certainly Wes had some opportunities in the game and made the most on a few of those. Then we had some other opportunities we didn’€™t quite hit,’€ McDaniels said. ‘€œWes’€™ role is the same as we’€™ve always gone. We’€™ll go each week and try to do what we think is best to help us win. Sometimes that may include playing more multiple tight ends. Sometimes it might be playing a lot more receivers. We kind of try to feel that out as we go through our preparation and then make the decisions that go along with it.’€

Here are some other highlights from the Tuesday afternoon conference call with McDaniels:

What are your thoughts on this defensive matchup with the Cardinals? What scheme are they playing and what challenges do they present?

‘€œWell, I had an opportunity to coach against the Cardinals twice last year. Coach [Cardinals Defensive Coordinator Ray] Horton has done a good job of implementing the system that he had at Pittsburgh for a long time. I wouldn’€™t say it’€™s exactly the same, but there are a lot of similarities to it. They’€™re a team that plays a lot of linebackers from their base defense. They give you a lot of different looks. They’€™re a team that I would say has an extensive pressure package. They do a great job of trying to disrupt the passing game with pressure and also at the same time do a good job of affecting the running game, at the same time with those same pressures. They’€™re an aggressive defense, a lot of good players. I think they’€™re a fast team. They have a lot of good team speed on defense.  They have guys that make plays at all three levels. Certainly, over the last 10 games they’€™re 8-2 and have done a good job of really settling into what they want to do and they’€™re playing well.’€

Can you tell us what you like about Stevan Ridley and can he be the kind of guy who can shoulder that kind of load week in and week out?

‘€œI thought Stevan did a good job of running hard in the game, made some yards after contact. He converted on some short yardage and goal-line opportunities which are always important plays for the offense. He made positive plays in the passing game as well. Stevan’€™s certainly earned the opportunity that he got on Sunday. I think he made the most of the opportunities he was given in the game. He’€™s a young player that works very hard during course of the week and has really made strides in a lot of different areas of his game and certainly I think some of those helped us on Sunday. We hope to see that continue going forward.’€

In the preseason there were a lot of moving parts on the offensive line. Why do you like Ryan Wendell at center and Dan Connolly at right guard? What did you see there against Tennessee?

‘€œI thought the line did a decent job as a whole. Certainly there are areas of improvement in all aspects of our play. We played seven guys in there on Sunday. Donald Thomas played in there. We played Marcus [Cannon] in there as well. Logan [Mankins] and Sebastian [Vollmer] were in there during the course of the game, certainly a big chunk of it, and then we got them out there some. The line went about their job and handled their business the way we expect them to. Wendy [Ryan Wendell] has done a nice job. He’€™s earned the opportunity that he has now. He went in there and provides us with a tough, competitive guy in the middle that does a good job of communicating and getting our calls across the board to the guys up front and he played that way on Sunday. Dan has been a guy that has played a lot of different roles for us. He played guard and fullback the other day. He certainly has played center in the past. The more versatile those guys are, the more they know about the other guy’€™s job and what his role’€™s going to be, certainly the more it helps them do their own job. To have two guys in there that know what’€™s going on at multiple positions can really give us a good balance inside there.’€

What are your thoughts on the no-huddle offense in terms of its place in the NFL today? We’€™ve seen it quite a lot here in New England and now it seems like the growth of that has been noticeable. What are your thoughts on that?

‘€œWell I think that, I certainly didn’€™t get to see a whole lot of games this weekend. We never really do other than what we’€™re watching on tape. But I do know that are more teams obviously trying to employ that method of playing offense. And there’€™s probably a lot of different reasons for it. Defenses are certainly getting more and more multiple and playing a lot of different personnel packages, trying to throw you a lot different looks and disguise in different coverages, different pressures, bringing people at the quarterback and trying to disrupt the passer in as many ways as they possibly can. Sometimes you feel like you can up-tempo the game and maybe settle some of that down. That might be one area where people look at it and say it’€™s a useful tool. I think that in general terms early in the season, sometimes playing quick is an advantage because these are our first few games that we’€™re playing our first group the entire ball game. Sometimes that can give you an advantage too. It’€™s definitely a fad. I know like a lot of different things, it could come and then it could go. There’€™s certainly different waves of that on both sides of the ball and in the kicking game that show up from time to time and then maybe a few years later they’€™ll kind of go into a different fad. I know in college football there seems to be a lot of that. I think you’€™re seeing some different ways to employ that now in the NFL.’€

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