Wes Welker's Reduced Role a Developing Story, and More AFC East News

Erik Frenz@ErikFrenzSenior Writer ISeptember 17, 2012

November 27, 2011; Philadelphia, PA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker (83) prior to the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-US PRESSWIRE

The New England Patriots lost not just their first home-opener in the 10-year history of Gillette Stadium but also one of their biggest offensive weapons in tight end Aaron Hernandez.

Those are both huge stories, but the biggest story was—as it was last week after the Patriots won—reduced playing time for wide receiver Wes Welker.

It should have been a banner day for Welker, who broke Patriots Hall-of-Fame wide receiver Troy Brown's New England record for receptions, but instead, ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss points out that while Welker played in 63 offensive snaps, wide receiver Julian Edelman played in 75 and lined up as the starting wide receiver on Sunday against the Cardinals.

Including penalties and a two-point conversion, Edelman was on for 75 snaps, while Welker played 63, according to ESPNBoston.com charting. Welker finished with five receptions for 95 yards, while Edelman had five catches for 50 yards.

Welker is taking the high road in comments, saying, "You want to be out there. ...but at the same time, whatever works best for the team I'm for that."

But no one could blame him for feeling slighted a bit, and with this loss, perhaps now he has a better case than ever that he should be a big part of the offense, a case which would be made even more strongly if the injury to tight end Aaron Hernandez is, indeed, long-term.

As mentioned above, this isn't the first we've heard of this story, and Welker's long-term future with the Patriots has been in jeopardy for some time. That being said, if Welker's role doesn't increase this week and down the road while Hernandez is out of the lineup, Welker's short-term future could be in jeopardy, too.

Here is some more news and analysis around the AFC East. 


New England Patriots

In more playing time analysis, Doug Kyed of NESN.com sheds light on Patriots cornerback Ras-I Dowling taking zero snaps on Sunday against the Cardinals. 

Mike Petraglia of WEEI.com talked to some players on the Arizona Cardinals defense about how they were able to shut down New England's offense.


Miami Dolphins

According to Dave Hyde of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin was seen dancing in the locker room with owner Stephen Ross after the team's 35-13 win over the Raiders.

Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald doesn't want to get too crazy, but says things are looking up after the win.


Buffalo Bills

Jay Skurski of The Buffalo News reports that both cornerback Stephon Gilmore and safety George Wilson passed concussion tests after the 35-17 win over the Chiefs.

Joe Buscaglia of WGR 550 Sportsradio points out that C.J. Spiller is the first running back to average over 10 yards per carry through two games since Jim Brown in 1963, and more nuggets from yesterday's big win.


New York Jets

Joe Caporoso of TurnOnTheJets.com gives us his instant reaction to the Jets 27-10 loss to the Steelers.

Rich Cimini of ESPN New York reminds us that backup quarterback Tim Tebow was a non-factor for the second straight week.


Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained firsthand.