Watson May Finally Shake His Critics

Former Patriots are getting their opportunities in Cleveland. That's good news for TE Ben Watson who may finally get the chance to live up to his draft status.

Signing Ben Watson did not get the attention of some of the other moves made by the Browns in the offseason, but he is a definite upgrade over what they had last year at tight end, at least until Evan Moore was discovered and added to the practice squad halfway through the season.

"He's got a ton of experience," said Browns coach Eric Mangini, an assistant with the Patriots during Watson's first two years in New England. "Our systems aren't exactly alike but there's plenty of carry over. He's got familiarity.

"He's a really good person and he's a gifted athlete, so all those are pluses. Plus he's a guy that's been through a lot of winning, a lot of training camps, so that veteran experience helps in the locker room as well."

This is going to be a tight end-friendly offense if training camp is an indicator of what to expect.

Jake Delhomme, in his 12th year, and Watson in his seventh are working very well together. During the intrasquad scrimmage on Saturday Delhomme hit Watson in the back left corner of the end zone from the 5 for what proved to be the winning touchdown. They have been connecting in practice as well.

Robert Royal caught 11 passes and Moore caught 12 in 2009. The hope is Watson will add another dimension to the offense. Watson caught 29 passes for the Patriots last season.

"It's a positive thing," Mangini said of the rapport developing between Delhomme and Watson. "Having a tight end that can stretch the field puts more pressure on the defense. You can't shift coverage outside. You have to figure out how you want to deal with them. Do you want to cover with a safety? Do you want to cover him with a linebacker? Do you want to let it go to zone?

"There are a lot of questions that have to be answered when you are facing tight ends that can be productive."
Watson may get the chance to become, in Cleveland, the player the Patriots thought they were getting when they selected him in the first round (32nd overall) of the 2004 NFL Draft.

Watson Not Only Former Patriot To Help

--Coach Eric Mangini wants to come out of training camp with a backup center for Alex Mack. Billy Yates, rookie third-round draft choice Shawn Lauvao and first year player Pat Murray have rotated in and out when Mack gets a breather.
Yates spent five seasons in New England (2004-08), appearing in 22 games with 11 starts for the Patriots. He joined the Browns in 2009 as a free agent.

"We've got quite a few guys working in those spots and one of them has to distinguish himself and show he can do that," Mangini said. "That will really help in terms of making the team and being on the 45 (game-day roster."

Hank Fraley and Rex Hadnot could back up Mack last season, but both are gone. That task now appears to be up to Yates' to lose.

Material from The Sports Xchange was used in this report

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