Henry Ellard Then, Wes Welker Now

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Remember the incredible start Henry Ellard got off to when he joined the Redskins in 1994? It was record-breaking – at the time. No NFL player had ever racked up 536 receiving yards in the first four games of the season (though his total has been topped since). Heck, Ellard was on a 2,144-yard pace at that point. Too bad the Redskins weren’t any good that year, or he would have attracted even more attention. (He finished with 1,397 as the team went 3-13 under new coach Norv Turner.)

Anyway, the Patriots’ Wes Welker is this season’s Henry Ellard. Through Week 4, he has 616 receiving yards – which beats the previous mark, set by New England’s Terry Glenn in 1999, by 71! (Yes, an accomplishment like that deserves an exclamation mark.)

Here are Welker’s first four games:

160 vs. Dolphins (8 catches, 2 touchdowns, including a record-tying 99-yarder)

81 vs. Chargers (7 catches)

217 vs. Bills (16 catches, 2 TDs)

158 vs. Raiders (9 catches, 1 TD)

Totals: 40 catches (which is also a record for the first four games), 616 yards, 5 TDs.

And here, by way of comparison, are Ellard’s first four:

105 vs. Seahawks (7 catches)

72 vs. Saints (3 catches, 2 TDs)

197 vs. Giants (10 catches, 1 TD)

162 vs. Falcons (6 catches, 1 TD)

Totals: 26 catches, 536 yards, 4 TDs).

(Ellard’s quarterback, in case you’d forgotten, was John Friesz.)

Finally, here are the 14 receivers who have piled up 500 or more yards in the first four games:

Yds Wideout, Team, Year (Quarterback)

616 Wes Welker, Patriots, 2011 (Tom Brady)

544 Terry Glenn, Patriots, 1999 (Drew Bledsoe)

543 Charley Hennigan, Oilers*, 1963 (George Blanda)

536 Henry Ellard, Redskins, 1994 (John Friesz)

535 Tim Brown, Raiders, 1997 (Jeff George)

530 Steve Smith, Panthers, 2011 (Cam Newton)

522 Jerry Rice, 49ers, 1995 (Steve Young)

516 Wes Chandler, Saints, 1979 (Archie Manning)

516 Jimmy Smith, Jaguars, 2000 (Mark Brunell)

513 Marvin Harrison, 1999, Colts (Peyton Manning)

506 Terrell Owens, Eagles, 2005 (Donovan McNabb)

505 Homer Jones, Giants, 1967 (Fran Tarkenton)

505 Randy Moss, Patriots, 2007 (Tom Brady)

500 Crazylegs Hirsch, Rams, 1951 (Norm Van Brocklin/Bob Waterfield)

*American Football League

(Source: pro-football-reference.com)

Note that Brady was the quarterback for two of the 500-yard men (Welker and Moss). Note, too, the names of George, Brunell and McNabb – all recent Redskins QBs – on the list.

Finally, the Redskins will be seeing Welker in Week 14, when the Patriots come to FedEx Field. They’ll also be seeing Smith – who has been lighting it up this season as well – in Week 7, when they travel to Carolina to play the Panthers. Those will be two pretty good tests for Jim Haslett’s rebuilt defense.  

 

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About the Author
Dan Daly

Dan Daly

Dan Daly has been writing about sports for the Washington Times since 1982. He has won numerous national and local awards, appears regularly in NFL Films’ historical features and is the co-author of "The Pro Football Chronicle,” a decade-by-decade history of the game. Follow Dan on Twitter at @dandalyonsports –- or e-mail him at ddaly@washingtontimes.com.

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