Third installment in our 2005 year in review. We focus on the Tight Ends. Specifically, Daniel Graham, Benjamin Watson and Christian Fauria. Overall, I think there is much room for improvement in Graham and Watson's play. Fauria, on the other hand did not play as much as he has in the past and/or was not thrown to as often this year. In Addition, he is an unrestricted free agent and with the emergence of Mike Vrabel and Tom Ashworth as end-zone receivers, of which Fauria mastered, I believe the Pats will not make a strong bid for his services. With that, thanks for your tough, gritty play Mr. Fauria.
Overall Grade: B-
I seriously do not know what to make out of Daniel Graham. The Patriots traded up to draft the former University of Colorado standout in the first round of the 2002 draft. He was supposed to be the modern day Ben Coates. That in itself is tough to live up to, but with Graham we've seen flashes of brilliance, then utter invisibility. I understand he is a fierce blocker, but I do not think we drafted him in the first round solely on his blocking skills.
Case in point: Remember the Atlanta game? He arguably had the most exciting play all season. Catching a tight-end screen, he rumbled down the sideline while hurdling defenders and scored on a 45 yard touchdown run. In that game, he resembled Ben Coates. In fact, he had 5 catches for 119 yards. Although Graham is basically used as a third tackle, he needs to step up and have more games like he did in Atlanta. Sixteen receptions for 235 yards during the 2005 season is not what you would expect from a first round pick (Jeramy Stevens anybody)? He was injured however, with a bad shoulder and missed five games. Hopefully, Daniel Graham can stay healthy next year and we can see the type of 1-2 punch I am sure the Patriot brass imagined when they drafted Graham and shortly after, Ben Watson.
This season was basically Ben Watson's rookie season as he missed all of his rookie year with a leg injury. All in all, a decent year for Watson. All we heard when the Patriots took him (in the first round of the 2004 draft) was that this guy was a special athelete. He was basicaly a wide receiver with the size to play tight end. Well, we got to see some of that talent in the 2005 season. Watson had 29 receptions for 441 yards and an average of just over 15 ypc.
My only concern with Watson is his tendency to drop passes and cough up the football. In the Jacksonville playoff game, had Davis not jumped on that fumble and Jacksonville had recovered, the momentum and game could have been dramatically changed. This should be a point of emphasis for Watson and the coaching staff during the pre-season next year. Looking ahead, expect Watson to catch a lot more balls and become a favorite target of Tom Brady. Especially since he has shown the flashes of speed and moves to gain additional yards after the catch.
Not much here to review. Fauria was not used all that often during the 2005 season. In fact, when he is normally most effective (2 yards and in) the team used Vrabel and even Tom Ashworth. Fauria finished with eight receptions for 57 yards. I do not think Fauria will be offered a ton of money on the free agent market as he is 34 years old, but he may be offered a starting position for some team. If that is the case, he may leave the team. Fauria is a team guy and fit in well in New England. If he wants to remain with a contender, albeit in a limited role, we could certainly use him for depth. But, if he is offered a contract that he simply cannot refuse, we wish him well.
Overall, I think our tight ends were productive during the 2005 season. Both Daniel Graham and Benjamin Watson are talented atheletes. I hope they can both realize their potential during the 2006 season. We can only dream about the fits they would give defensive coordinators and how they would open up our entire offense.
Next up, Quarterbacks. Actually it will be more or less a review of Tom Brady's performance since he started all sixteen games and the backups only made cameo appearances...