Fourth in a series of positional reviews from the Patriots’ 2009 season:
Tight ends: Chris Baker, Benjamin Watson
Stat check: Watson was fifth on the team with 29 receptions, while his five receiving touchdowns were second on the club. Baker, utilized more as a blocker, had 14 catches for 142 yards and two touchdowns.
First instinct: The early optimism about Baker’s arrival – sparked by his two touchdown performance in the preseason against the Eagles – faded rather quickly.
Storyline not be overlooked: In training camp, Bill Belichick said that the competition between tight ends Baker, Watson, David Thomas and Alex Smith was the best he had seen in his 10 years as coach. Yet that competition didn’t seem to translate into big production. Trading a fifth-round draft choice for Smith was a mistake.
Future: Watson is scheduled for free agency and the feeling here is that he will likely sign elsewhere. Baker is signed through 2013, although the structure of the deal makes it likely that the contract will end after the 2010 season.
Final thought: Watson played 66 percent of the offensive snaps, more than any non-quarterback skill-position player other than Randy Moss. Baker was also a constant, playing in 61 percent of the snaps. For the playing time they had, it was puzzling why they weren’t targeted more in the passing game. Look for changes in this area and a recommitment to integrating the tight end into the offense.
POSITIONAL QUICK HITS