Giants vs. Patriots: How Effective Will Antrel Rolle Be in Stopping Wes Welker?

Andrea HangstFeatured Columnist IVFebruary 1, 2012

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 16:  C.J. Spiller #28 of the Buffalo Bills runs the ball against  Antrel Rolle #26 of the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on October 16, 2011 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Slot receivers have been difficult for defenders to cover for years now, but few are as dangerous and elusive as the New England Patriots' Wes Welker, Tom Brady's most reliable and productive target.

Giants nickel cornerback Antrel Rolle will be responsible for covering Welker in Sunday's Super Bowl, and how successful he is at doing so will help determine the ultimate outcome of the game.

In the teams' Week 9 regular season meeting, Welker racked up 136 yards on nine receptions. He had no touchdowns. However, his gains did set the team up to score, and thus Rolle must not allow Welker to make so many plays this Sunday.

Rolle is a physical defensive back, and he'll have to constantly be on Welker from the moment the ball is snapped. If he can disrupt Welker's routes, Brady will be thrown off his rhythm and forced to target another receiver.

Welker is the key to a Patriots victory this and every week. He isn't his team's highest scorer, but his 1,569 regular-season receiving yards set them up for scoring drive after scoring drive.

If Rolle allows Welker to put up more than 100 yards, it's not a good sign for the Giants' chances to keep the team out of scoring range. Welker's biggest asset is his ability to gain yards after the catch—he's fast and he's able to make defenders miss.

Rolle will have to keep Welker contained, tackling him quickly after making a catch. If not, he's liable to break off 30 or more yards before Rolle realizes what happened.

Rolle's 96 total regular season tackles are the most of any Giants defender, and he's more than capable of keeping Welker neutralized on Sunday. The pressure will be high, but if his 2011 season is any indicator, he's more than capable of performing well even with so much on the line.

Stopping Brady is clearly the Giants' top priority on Sunday, and there's more ways of doing so than just via the pass rush. They also need to stop his many receiving targets.

With Welker clearly Brady's favorite, Rolle's role will be one of the most important parts of his team's overall efforts. He can certainly meet the challenge, and his matchup with Welker is a must-watch in Sunday's Super Bowl.