Greg Bedard on Welker, Brady and Arizona's strengths

The Boston Globe's Greg Bedard gave a great interview this morning on WEEI. You can listen below and also read the transcript of some highlights.

Probably the biggest thing to take away is his thoughts on Welker and his reduced role in Week 1. This story has gotten a lot of play, mostly because of the dramatic decrease in snaps compared to last year and Welker's uncertain contract situation.

Yesterday, I fueled some speculation that Welker was perhaps injured in training camp and that could be the reason he was held back in this game. Bedard has some other theories, in fact he has about four.

He also accurately points out that the misconnection between Brady and LLoyd on the long ball early on was Brady's fault. Anyway, here's some highlights, the audio is down below and is probably playing right now in the background.

On Wes Welker's reduced role in Week 1:

"People started to bring this up very early on Monday when Reiss posts his snap counts. I'm always cautious because just snap counts without any context are very dangerous to me. You really need to go back and watch the game, see the situations and what played out.

This is a completely different team, last year look at the wide receiver core. He had to play every snap. They didn't have anybody else.

I think this is the Brandon Lloyd, third tight end, fullback [effect]. If you look at it, a lot of times the third tight end and the fullback were put in for Wes Welker, that's when he came out. Now, there were definitely times when Edelman played instead of Welker. I think that he did get benched because of his drop, I mean for him not to play an entire season, when was the last time that happened?

Besides that, what people are not thinking about here in regards to this is that Julian Edelman has earned time. I said this coming out of training camp. I said they need to find a way to get Edelman the ball more. It's not going to be for Lloyd because he's the X. He's the first legitimate X they have to go with these two tight ends so he's not comng out. Welker does not run those routes well, that's not his strength. Edelman, he's a different player than Welker, he has different strengths but it would behoove the Patriots to try and see how that fits in with the offesne. Edelman has earned the time. Welker, I think part of it is they need to cut down on his reps. Like Wilfork, who's still playing over 80% of the snaps, Wes Welker does not need to play 90 snaps a game. There is no benefit of that unless it's a close game. They need him later in the season, he tailed off a little bit last year. They relied on him too much early on in the sason. Right now I think they are trying to build in a little rest for him and I think that's very wise and says nothing about his skills."

On if this is Welker's last season with the Patriots:

"I think so, unless for some reason he suffers an injury or his production goes down for reasons other than not playing. We'll see about playing time as the season goes along but as long as he's around 100 catches, yeah he's gone. He's gonna get a contract somewhere else or the Patriots are going to franchise him and trade him.

On what the team would look like without Welker:

I think you would see more reliance on the tight ends. I think you will see that eventually when Shiancoe joins the crew after Week 6. Edelman could fill in, I just think that role, that Z in this offense, is gonna be diminished with the tight ends. Now that they have Hernandez and Gronkowski locked up forever."

On Tom Brady's not so perfect performance:

I had him with six poor throws. I think four of them he was bailed out by receivers. Included was that throw to Brandon Lloyd on that fake play action reverse. Brady threw that in the one place that you'd rather him not throw it, which is directly over Lloyd's head. Because Lloyd didn't have an angle on the ball, he couldn't judge it. That's why he stopped and turned around. If Brady throws it to either shoulder, that's a touchdown.

I do grade Brady on a curve because he's incredible. The second half or most of 2010, I don't know if you can play the quarterback position better. Last season? Pretty close but not quite as good. This game, look he didn't have a lot of challenging throws. I think the best throw he made was actually the one that Welker dropped. To throw it in traffic like that with that zip. You just didn't see a lot of high difficuly throws and he missed some easy throws. For Tom Brady, that's a little bit better than average, I think at the end of the season you look back and he has 12 games better than that one.

On Arizona's strengths and weaknesses:

"Their defense for the Patriots offense, yes they are a very good test.

Even though this style of defense, Steelers zone blitz, Ray Horton, the [defensive] coordinator for the Cardinals is from the Steelers. So they run the same type of scheme, and we've seen it before, Brady has no problem with this type of scheme if they can get it blocked up. That's a big question and I think this is going to be a very good test for this offensive line.

I mean, Darnell Dockett, you don't get any better as far as active interior pass rushers than Darnell Dockett. He is sensational, he killed the Seahawks on just about every down.

As far as the Patriots defense against the Cardinals offense, I wouldn't be suprised if they shut them out. The Cardinals are not good. Kevin Kolb, you hit him early and he starts looking at the rush, he stopa looking at the downfield routes. The running game isn't that good. Chandler Jones should have about five sacks in this game, that's how poor the Cardinals are at left tackle. D'Anthony Baptiste, the last time he started a game was in 2007 and that was at guard. Last Sunday's game was the first time he ever started at left tackle, and it looked like it."

Comparing Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower:

"Jones was more productive, down to down. As far as the way I grade things. Hightower had a couple issues in coverage, which is to be expected. But as far as who impressed me the most over the whole game - Hightower is something else.

The play that he made, there was a chris Johnson run for -3 that I talked about in the article today. He took on the guard and the fullback Quinn Johnson and...that's all he does is block it's not like he's a pass receiver. Hightower took on both those guys in the backfield and knocked them both back and tackled Chris Johnson with two fingers. It was an incredible play. He made plays similar to that time and time again.

They're both very impressive but Hightower was the guy, considering all the responsibility he has and there's a learning curve to it. He's really the guy that I came away like, 'Wow, I can't wait to watch how this guy grows over the course of the season'."

The Patriots stopping Larry Fitzgerald:

"I don't think the Patriots will have any touble with Kolb. Andre Roberts, the other starting wide receiver, is an interesting weapon. He does a lot of things - he'll line up in the backfield, he'll carry the ball. Outside of that, Eary Doucet, Michael Floyd, the three tight ends that they use, none of those guys are gonna scare a defense.

I don't see why the Patriots wouldn't just double team Larry Fitzgerald the entire game and let everyone else beat them. I think that's what they'll do. Larry always gets his in some of them, but I think the Patriots will manage him just like they did Chris Johnson. I don't know about completely shutting him out like they did Johnson but it'll be pretty good."