Ben Watson tied with Jabar Gaffney for the 5th most receptions on the team last year. Combined with Kyle Brady, and David Thomas; Patriots tight ends totaled 46 receptions for 468 yards. That's a pretty good yards per reception average (10.2) for tight ends.
With Watson andThomas; the Pats are pretty much set at tight end. It isn't the best group of TEs. There aren't any Tony Gonzalezes or Dallas Clarks in this bunch. But they do their job. They're good blockers for the run and on pass protection. And when the receivers are covered, they are solid outlets.
It would be nice to see Watson get more consistent touches. He got about half of his receptions (17 of 36) in four games (Week 2 vs. SD, Week 5 vs. CLE, Week 14 vs. PIT, Week 17 vs. NYG). In the other 8 games he played in, he averaged 2.4 receptions, which isn't keeping him very much involved in the offense.
In 2006, Watson was a big part of the Patriots offense. He was second on the team in receptions (49) and receiving yards (643). Obviously with the addition of Moss, Stallworth, and Welker; these numbers were bound to drop.
When the Patriots ran into a formidable, and nearly unstoppable pass rush, they were lost. After relying on deep passes and complex combination routes all year, they seemed to have no idea how to play old school (4 years ago) Patriots field position football. This was where the tight end was needed, both to pass protect and to to punish defensive ends that were running straight upfield. Quick outs, tight end screens, quick passes on the flat. These types of plays were needed. With no running game working, dumping off to big tight ends like Watson (255 lbs.) and Brady (280 lbs) would have served as a good replacement.
Ben Watson had 0 receptions in the Super Bowl. Kyle Brady had 1 for 3 yards.
I don't think the Patriots need to go out and acquire help at tight end. But they should consider getting the tight end more involved in the offense.
One thing to look forward to in 2008 will be David Thomas. We haven't seen much of him, but when we have, it's been fun to watch. Against Jacksonville in '06, he filled in for Watson and had 5 catches for 83 yards and a TD. He re-aggravated a foot injury and was unable to play for most of the 2007 season. If healthy, he could become a serious force in an already deadly offense.