Denver Broncos | News

Welker returns to roster, so what's next?

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- **After a year in the Broncos' offense and a seven-year reign as the NFL's most efficient slot receiver, Wes Welker knows his job better than most in the league.

That should help ease his transition back into the offense after two weeks away. A full week of practice awaits, beginning Wednesday, and he has cleared the NFL's post-concussion protocol after suffering a third concussion in 10 months on Aug. 23.

The Broncos coped without Welker for three and a half games last season, but there was concern over the Broncos' fortunes on third down during that stretch; their conversion percentage dropped by 9.2 percent during his absence.

However, the Broncos proved they could maintain their third-down proficiency without Welker in Weeks 1 and 2. They converted seven of 13 third downs against the Colts (not counting a third-down kneeldown at the end of the game), and three of eight in Sunday's win over the Chiefs.

That takes the Broncos to 10-of-21 on third downs this season; even if the kneeldown is included, their 45.5 percent rate is ninth-best in the league and third in the AFC -- good, but not the league-leading pace at which Denver sailed until Welker's second concussion last year. And on pass plays, the Broncos have converted six of 16 third-down attempts through two games.

Beyond third downs, the Broncos also tweaked their formation usage. In Welker's absence the last two weeks, the team emphasized two-tight end sets, using that personnel grouping on 79 of 115 plays.

Those looks could continue in the future, even after Welker is back in uniform; the two-tight end package was a point of emphasis throughout organized team activities and training camp.

But Welker's return creates more options, more flexibility and more looks to consider. And with elite defenses like those of Seattle and Arizona lurking, they need all the targets they can get and Welker will help.

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