Tight-end has been a bit disappointing for the Patriots the last 2 or 3 years. Ben Watson went from a promising threat (643 yards, 49 receptions, 13.1 yard average in 2006) to an unreliable and inconsistent second-thought on the offense. Watson was 2nd on the team with his 49 receptions in 2006. But in 2007, with the emergence of Moss and Welker, Watson's production expectedly dropped. But what wasn't expected was that without consistent passes coming his way, Watson struggled to hang onto the ball.
In response to this, the Patriots acquired veterans Chris Baker and Alex Smith. With up-and-coming Texas product David Thomas, there's simply too many people for too few spots.
The Patriots don't need Dallas Clark or Jason Witten production out of TE. They need good blocking (since they lack fullbacks), good pass protection, and outlets. Watson's numbers were so good in 2006 because the receiving corps sucked on toast. Pro Bowl numbers from any tight-end this year means that there's something wrong with the Patriots offense.
Watson is out, or so it seems. He hasn't been in preseason games. It feels like the Patriots might be trying to deal him for a late pick, which they customarily do when they're about to release someone. Even if Watson stays, it looks like Chris Baker will get most of the snaps at the position.
David Thomas hasn't turned into the producer I thought he might be, but in an offense with Moss and Welker, how often does your #2 TE get on the field and run a route? Thomas is a good 250 pound blocker to have in short yardage and goal line situations.
Regardless of who makes the team at this spot, I think it will be a decent year for Patriot tight-ends. Again, there won't be any eye-popping numbers. But there will be blocking, and there will be outlet passing, and there will be some TDs. Give Brady a good tight-end, and he will find him in big spots. That good tight-end is Chris Baker.