New England Patriots PreSeason Watch - Tight Ends Updated 8/23/2009

Contiuing the position battles: (Previously QB WR RB)

The Tight-Ends:

87 Chris Baker TE 6-3 258 11/18/1979 8 * Jets
85 Tyson DeVree CUT TE 6-6 245 11/12/1984 2
80 Alex Smith TE 6-4 258 5/22/1982 5 * Buccaneers
84 Benjamin Watson TE 6-3 255 12/18/1980 6
86 David Thomas TE 6-3 248 7/5/1983 4

This battle is one of the most interesting of camp and one that Belichick is fairly tight-lipped about.  What's nice about this battle is there are some veterans, so we can look at some production numbers for the last two seasons:

Name G Rec Yds Avg YAC 1stD TD
Ben Watson 26 58 598 10.3 2.9 33 8
Dave Thomas 17 10 102 10.2 4.4 6 0
Chris Baker 31 62 603 9.7 3.8 40 3
Alex Smith 28 53 635 12.0 5.6 35 6

Before training camp, I figured we'd hang on to all of the Tight Ends with Tyson DeVree heading to the Practice Squad.

The update and some analysis after the jump:

Ben Watson has potential.  From the time of his draft until now, everyone has said the same thing.  He is strong, he can jump, and he has breakout speed.  Yet when you pick a tight end for your fantasy league, Jason Witten and Chris Cooley clear the boards long before Ben Watson gets a look.  Clearly, there is something beyond the physical tools.  Is it that the Patriots haven't been emphasizing the Tight End position, or is it inconsistency in the tight ends themselves?  Ben has also spent a considerable amount of time out of training camp.  With 4 other guys in the mix, it's not good to miss work.

Dave Thomas had a decent year in 2006.  In 2007 he played 2 games and was injured, he wasn't one of the three tight ends on the roster by season end.  In 2008, he could have had a big year, but he had 9 receptions in 15 games.  Granted 5 of those were for first down, and he has been used alot for blocking duties.  He was used as a full back in the Eagles pre-season game this year, but one-dimensional players aren't usually kept on the roster long.  Dave also had a drive stopping penalty last year in the Colts game, that may have changed the outcome of the game.  We'll never know.  Of course, Ben Watson had an end zone celebration penalty of his own.

Why so many Tight Ends in camp?  Are our incumbents failing to meet expectations?

Chris Baker had a big double touchdown game against the Eagles.  Is anybody excited about what he can bring to the table?

Look at Alex Smith's numbers, the highest percentage of 1st Downs, the hightest average yards, and the highest YAC numbers of the bunch.  That's actual NFL production.  Can we use that potential here?

As I mentioned in my earlier post,  I think we are doing more than providing incentive for our 2 incumbents.  Belichick is looking at multiple tight end formations - those were the key to winning in the 2007 post-season against the Chargers.  He is also experimenting with the use of floating blockers or moving wedges on Special Teams.  I missed that  portion of the Eagles game; I wanted to see what he was up to.  Feel free to comment if you noticed someting.

I think we could still end up with all of these guys on the roster, although Tyson DeVree would really have to stand out to be something other than a Practice Squad guy.  I haven't heard that he is.  It's also possible to see Ben traded toward the end of the preseason, if we decide we won't use him this year.

As the preseason games progress, keep an eye on these guys for production and consistency.  Keep in mind, also that production for a tight end might come in the form of keeping Brady upright, or lead blocking for a running back.  Touchdowns are nice, but look for 1st down catches.  Does Brady trust his hands?  When we use multiple tight-ends, who gets open, and who is left to block?  On special teams, who is featured and in what capacity?  This competition is far from over, and I feel there aren't really any locks.  Each of these guys is playing for his job this year.

Who do YOU feel makes the team?

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> UPDATE <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

8-23-2009 - The Patriots have cut Tyson DeVree.

The views expressed in these FanPosts are not necessarily those of the writers or SBNation.

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