PHOTO: New England Patriots tight end Ben Watson speaks with reporters at training camp in Foxboro, July 30, 2005. Watson is returning from a knee injury that sidelined him for the 2004 season. (Patriots Insider Photo)
Watson A Force At End
By Michael Reardon, Site Contributor
The Patriots' third pre-season game against the Green Bay Packers provided the fans with their first good look at what the starting offense and defense will probably look like. Among the offensive unit was 2nd year tight end Ben Watson who has yet to play a significant role in the Patriots offense because of a season - ending injury early in 2004. There has been much speculation as to how much Watson will be able to contribute this season, and if his performance of the other night is any sign of things to come, it looks like Tom Brady will have another viable weapon in the passing attack and Corey Dillon will have another bruising blocker to assist in the ground attack.
While it is true that this was "just" a pre-season game, it is still evident that Watson's combination of size, speed, and hands will present opposing defenses with a substantial matchup problem this season. Belichick is very aware of Watson's versatility, and has already shown that Watson will be being deployed in a variety of different ways. During the course of the game, Watson was positioned on the line next to the tackle at the traditional tight end spot, in the backfield behind the other tight end Daniel Graham, and as a split out as a slot receiver. Watson looked comfortable and capable of performing in each position, no matter what role it called for.
As a receiver, Watson displayed exceptional athleticism and hands. He also displayed excellent speed for a tight end, and showed that he possesses the ability the stretch the field and be a deep threat. Watson also seems to be developing a repartee with quarterback Tom Brady; he finished the game with 6 receptions for 59 yards while the most any other receiver on the team was 2.
Just as impressive as the receiving prowess that Watson displayed against the Packers was his ability as a blocker. In Belichick's offense, the tight ends play an important role in run blocking schemes, and Watson seems to be more than up for the task. Watson was given key blocking assignments on many of Dillon's runs and appeared to perform very well.
Early in the first quarter on a 2nd and 2, the Patriots came out in a three tight end formation with Watson, Graham, and Fauria all on the field blocking for what was a Corey Dillon handoff. The result was an 11 yard run down to the Green Bay 17 yard line.
On the very next play, the Patriots had a double tight end set and Watson was positioned in the backfield behind Graham on the right side. The play was an inside handoff to Dillon to the left, and Watson pulled parallel down the line and opened up the whole with a vicious trap block on the Green Bay defensive end. Dillon ran for six yards on the play.
The next play was a 12 yard touchdown run by Dillon, and Watson and Graham were again lined up next to each other run blocking.
The double TE formation was used throughout the game, and Watson and Graham were both seen executing pull blocks and opening up big wholes for Dillon. Graham is already known as a great tight end blocker and so far it seems that Watson excels at it as well. With Christian Fauria the favorite to win the third tight end spot over Jed Weaver, the Patriots may have the deepest and most talented tight end group in the NFL.
While Watson has yet to prove himself at the NFL level over the course of a regular season, how much he will contribute and how Belichick will use him is certainly one of the more intriguing and exciting subplots to watch as we enter into the 2005 season.
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