Watson was back a week later, and now he leads Patriots tight ends in receptions and yards despite playing just four games.
No one will confuse Watson with Rob Gronkowski, but the 38-year-old tight end has emerged as a legitimate weapon for quarterback Tom Brady and the Patriots offense. Watson’s performance, especially over the last two weeks, has been a bright spot in an otherwise underperforming offense.
Watson caught three passes for 52 yards in Week 11 against the Philadelphia Eagles. One of those completions, a 19-yarder, forced Watson to lay out in contested coverage for the ball.
“Ben’s a smart guy,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said Tuesday. “He works hard, he has a lot of experience, and he’s been able to be productive for us as well and in a higher volume of snaps.”
Watson has played at least 69.2 percent of snaps in every game he’s been back with the Patriots this season. Matt LaCosse, who was expected to be the Patriots’ starting tight end this season, came back from an injury Sunday against the Eagles. Watson played 59 snaps, while LaCosse was on the field for just 21 offensive plays.
So, Watson is a clear-cut starter in the Patriots’ offense.
“Ben is a pro,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said Tuesday. “He puts in all the time and effort and work to be prepared for the opponent, to prepare his body for the things that we need to do during the course of the week, to be really ready to play each week. You really appreciate that part of him. He’s a guy that’s made some plays for us in the passing game. He’s done some things on the edge — chipping and blocking things in the running game, too. He serves a lot of purposes for us.
“He’s a guy that knows how to play in our system and in our offensive scheme. We have a lot of trust and faith in him — practices hard, competes well every day and really is a good influence on all our guys in terms of knowing how to prepare and getting ready each week. Made some big plays for us the other night, and we’ll look forward to continue to work to improve our entire group and I’m sure Ben will do a great job with that, as well.”
It is pretty remarkable what Watson is doing six weeks after the Patriots determined he was expendable. It’s a good thing he doesn’t hold a grudge.
“Look, the way business works is maybe next week I’m not here,” Watson said. “And next week, anybody’s not here. That’s just how it goes. It’s something that I learned very early on from Coach Belichick is he does what he thinks is best for the football team. At that point, that’s what he thought was best for the football team. Now that I’m on the team, it’s my job to do my best and that’s it. That was a different situation and you just take it week by week.”
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images