Image Credit: Houston Texans
In 2004, Wes Welker entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent who signed with the San Diego Chargers. He didn’t make that Chargers team. They offered him a practice squad spot, but he declined and instead signed with the Miami Dolphins. After three seasons of mostly kick-off and punt return duties, Welker was traded to the New England Patriots for a second- and a fourth-round pick. In three years he went from not being worth a single pick to being worth two.
Every NFL fan knows the Hall of Fame-worthy story Welker created after he coupled up with Tom Brady. All he did is become the first player to catch 110 balls in three seasons, rewrite the Patriots’ receiving record book, and amass career receiving numbers of 903/9,924/50; all by becoming the prototypical slot receiver every team wants.
He retired in 2015 after finishing his career in St. Louis.
In 2017 he re-entered the league, this time in the coaching ranks. The Houston Texans signed him as an offensive assistant coach on January 30, 2017. After spending two seasons with the Texans, he signed on with the San Francisco 49ers to be the wide receivers coach.
Will Welker be able to improve the current wide receiver corps?
When looking at his time with the Texans, although he was the offense and special teams assistant coach, one could assume that he was involved with the wide receivers in some way. DeAndre Hopkins is obviously in his own league, but Will Fuller was putting in a good improved season, and Keke Coutee had a decent showing for a third-option rookie wide receiver.
The obvious beneficiary to the Welker hire is Trent Taylor. During his rookie season, Taylor became Mr. Third Down for Jimmy Garoppolo and Kyle Shanahan. During this past season, his second, Taylor seemed to regress and that could definitely be attributed to back injuries he’s suffered and subsequent off-season surgery last year. If Welker could help push Taylor into even a close shadow of what Welker was as a player for the Patriots, the 49ers could be favorites in the NFC.
Welker was a fantastic route runner and seemed to rarely ever drop the ball. Even though Richie James isn’t inherently only a slot receiver, he could definitely benefit from some of Welker’s tutelage in soft hands with a firm grip. Welker’s knowledge on reading opponents zone defenses to find those soft spots should also be beneficial for all of the 49ers receivers.
The most important aspect Welker brings to the organization is his history of being a winner. He was on winning teams in New England and in Denver. That ability to be calm in big moments and knowing the right thing to say to motivate a team when the tank is empty but the scoreboard says its time to go. He’s another asset on the sideline for Shanahan who is battle tested and proven to come out a winner.
It will also be interesting to see if Coach Welker has any advice for James, Dante Pettis, or whoever else will be returning kickoffs and punts next season. Although Welker is the wide receivers coach, he was a heck of a return man in his younger days,sohe would definitely have some good information for the young returners.
Welker has made a career by taking a small opportunity given to him and becoming possibly the greatest slot receiver in the history of the NFL. Who knows, maybe he’ll take this opportunity and become the 49ers best offensive position coach since Tom Rathman.
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