BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots haven’t gotten much from their tight ends over the first four weeks of the season. But some help is on the way, with Benjamin Watson rejoining the team following his four-game suspension.
In Watson’s absence, Patriots tight ends Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo caught a grand total of four passes. While the Patriots are 4-0, their offense has struggled over their last two games, and they could certainly use something out of that position, whether it’s a few more catches or some quality blocking.
Watson, even at the age of 38, should be able to provide a little bit of both in his second stint in New England.
“Ben’s a versatile guy, he’s a smart guy. He’s certainly made a lot of plays in his career,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said on his weekly conference call Tuesday. “Just gives an element of speed and experience at the tight end position. He’s been a productive guy, made plays under pressure.
“It was great to have him back this offseason into training camp, and hopefully we’ll be able to move forward with him in a role that suits his skillset and our team,” added McDaniels.
Watson briefly retired after last season before the Patriots convinced him to give it another go. He was hit with the four-game ban for violating the league’s PED policy after he came back, which he warned the Patriots would happen before they signed him. But with Rob Gronkowski also calling it quits after last season, the Pats didn’t mind.
The veteran played in 16 games for the New Orleans Saints last season, hauling in 35 passes for 400 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He’s just two years removed from a carer-high 74 catches with the Saints in 2015, with a 61-catch season for Baltimore sandwiched in between.
While his suspension is over, time will tell if the Patriots want to play him this Sunday when the team visits the Washington Redskins. They currently own a roster exemption for Watson, so he can practice this week without the team making a corresponding roster move. But if they want to play him in Washington, the Pats will have to clear a roster spot.
(Update: The Patriots created that spot on Tuesday afternoon, reportedly waiving lineman Caleb Benenoch, according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo.)
Watson had a pair of catches in the preseason before he was sidelined with a concussion against the Panthers in New England’s third exhibition game. When the regular season hit, the team couldn’t have any contact with Watson, but they’re confident he’ll be ready to go when he returns to practice on Wednesday.
“We couldn’t have any contact with Ben from that whatever it was – that Sunday before the Pittsburgh game. Yeah, it is what it is,” head coach Bill Belichick said Tuesday. “Fortunately, Ben has a lot of experience in our system and has been with us all through the spring and training camp, so hopefully he’ll be able to recall what he did and the things that are new. Coach [Nick] Caley, Coach McDaniels will spend extra time with him to go over those with him to come up to speed on those.”
Tune in to Sunday’s Patriots-Redskins game on WBZ-TV — the flagship station of the New England Patriots. Pregame coverage begins at 11:30 a.m. with Patriots GameDay, kickoff is set for 1 p.m., and stick around after the game for all the reaction and analysis on Patriots 5th Quarter!