The New England Patriots Miss Wes Welker, and Other Team Myths

Pats Don't Miss Welker Nearly as Much as You Might Think

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | The New England Patriots have made a regular habit of proving others wrong while under the tenure of head coach Bill Belichick. Now in his 14th season, he has gone a combined 156-58 with three Super Bowl wins, and debunked quite a few naysayers along the way.

Here are three myths that have already been proven false about the 2013 Patriots:

The Team Misses Wes Welker: When the veteran wide receiver left New England this offseason to sign with the Denver Broncos, it was hard not to think he would be sorely missed. After all, the 32-year-old veteran had posted astonishing totals of 672 receptions, 7,459 receiving yards and 37 touchdowns in his six seasons with the Patriots.

Although the team is scoring about two touchdowns less per game than it did last season, it's hard to attribute it to the loss of Welker. Receiver Julian Edelman has stepped in and been more than an acceptable replacement for his esteemed former teammate.

Welker is enjoying an excellent season with the Broncos. He has been targeted for 50 passes, hauling in 37 for 378 yards and a league-leading eight touchdowns.

By comparison, Edelman has been thrown at 61 times. He has made 41 catches for 411 yards and two scores. This puts him on pace to finish the season with 109 receptions for 1,096 yards and five touchdowns, which is very similar to Welker's line of 118/1,354/6 from last year.

While there is a large discrepancy in touchdowns, that is as much or more about the overall team offense, the absence of New England tight ends Aaron Hernandez (arrest/release) and Rob Gronkowski (injury) and quarterback play than it is the individual receivers.

Welker had a great run in New England. It's always tough to see such players go, but in actuality he has been replaced very capably by Edelman.

Stevan Ridley Can't Help the Passing Game: Coming out of college at LSU, Ridley was purported to be a one-dimensional player. His NFL.com scouting report stated simply, "He will not contribute in the passing game."

Although he had just nine receptions and 64 receiving yards over his first two seasons with the Patriots, Ridley is starting to come around as a receiver. He has caught all four passes thrown his way this season (all in his past three games), accumulating 48 yards and providing another weapon on an uneven offense.

He has also proven to be more than a capable blocker, giving quarterback Tom Brady added protection and another option whenever the running back disengages from his block and turns up the field.

Ridley may never be like a Marshall Faulk or a Darren Sproles in terms of his receiving production. However, he is showing he is more than capable of adding that dynamic to his repertoire, which not only helps his stock, but makes the New England offense all the more dangerous.

The Team Must Sign a Premium Pass Rusher: There has been angst over the past couple of seasons concerning the Patriots not extending themselves to bring in a premium pass rusher. While the team doesn't have one of the top pass-rushing units in the league, they have cobbled together a productive group in utilizing a combination of youngsters and undervalued players.

The Patriots were 14th in the NFL in 2011 with 40 sacks as a team, and tied for 15th last year with 37.

They have continued that same adequacy in 2013 by combining for 14 sacks through the first six games, which is tied for 19th in the league. These efforts have been primarily led by two players.

Defensive Chandler Jones was the team's first-round draft pick last year. He had 6.5 sacks as a rookie, and already has 4.5 this season, giving the impression he could actually turn into the stud many have hungered for.

Veteran defensive end Rob Ninkovich has also proven himself to be extremely valuable with 14.5 sacks in 2011-2012, and another so far this year. The Patriots thought enough of him to recently sign him to three-year contract extension.

New England may not have any marquee names rushing the quarterback, but they have gotten more than acceptable production from those they have plugged into that role-which is fine as long as the job gets done.

Conclusion: It can be difficult in the moment to not question decisions and preconceived notions about your football team and its players. The most successful teams are those that establish a plan and are confident in their choices. The Patriots have been doing this for years, and as the results have shown, there is no reason to start doubting them now.

In addition to the Yahoo Contributor Network, Andrew Martin has written extensively for Bleacher Report and a number of print publications and websites on the topics of history and sports (particularly the Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots). He also produces his own blog and has appeared on various sports talk shows and podcasts.

You can also follow Andrew on Twitter: @HistorianAndrew.

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