By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Bill Belichick left open the possibility for Ben Watson to return to the Patriots, but apparently that wasn't promised to him.
Watson spoke to reporters for the first time since re-signing with the Pats on Thursday, and expanded on the thoughts he shared via Twitter after his initial release. The 38-year-old tight end had no assurances of coming back, and it took injuries to both Matt LaCosse and fullback Jakob Johnson for a roster spot to open back up for him.
With his career nearing its final stanza, Watson and his family faced a lot of uncertainty in his brief time back in free agency.
"Sometimes, you know, a guy gets released and he's back in a couple of days. Sometimes that's it," Watson said. "And at this point in my career, I know the end is close. You never know how it's going to end. And so when that happened, it was obviously a lot of disappointment, sadness about it, obviously going through everything I went through to have a chance to play. But you understand that this is part of it. And so you proceed as a family a day at a time. That's what we try to do."
Speaking of uncertainty, the Patriots have had plenty of it at tight end going back to Rob Gronkowski's retirement. The Patriots are hoping Watson's presence in the passing game and longtime trust with Tom Brady provide the spark they need at that position.
More thoughts from Foxboro as the Patriots get ready for the Jets...
Gordon, LaCosse Trending Down
Receiver Josh Gordon and tight end Matt LaCosse were the only two players missing from Patriots practice on Thursday. They're both listed with knee injuries, while Gordon is also dealing with an ankle issue.
Each of them are trending toward being out at the Jets on Monday night. The Patriots are likely to roster three tight ends, though, since they re-signed Watson and also signed former Jets and Giants tight end Eric Tomlinson. Watson should hopefully contribute as a pass-catcher, while Tomlinson looks more like a replacement for Johnson at fullback.
"He’s a bigger guy. Probably more of a – you know, bigger, has blocking ability," Belichick said when asked about Tomlinson. "He has been in the backfield. He’s played on the line of scrimmage. So, I don’t know. We’ll see how that all plays out."
Assuming Gordon is out, it will mean more prominent roles for rookies Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski, even with Phillip Dorsett likely back in the lineup. One of them will have to be the third guy in three-receiver sets. The signing of WR Devin Ross to the practice squad is an indication that Meyers and/or Olszewski were able to get more work in with Brady this week.
"He's Just The Guy"
Patriots safety Devin McCourty spoke about facing Jets quarterback Sam Darnold, who returned in Week 6 after a bout with mononucleosis. Darnold made an immediate impact, going 23-for-32 passing for 332 yards, two touchdowns and an interception (a 113.8 passer rating).
He most notably connected with Robby Anderson for a 92-yard touchdown in which the receiver burned the single deep safety. So McCourty will certainly want to show some better footballin' than the Cowboys did on that play. He knows he's going up against a possible franchise quarterback.
"I think he’s just the guy," said McCourty on Thursday. "I think the comfort level he has, I think the guys around him, all those other guys on offense – he’s taken all those snaps since May when they were out there in spring practices. So, when you have that feeling, and then obviously, he’s a really good player, I think it just makes everything flow better.
"He looked great last week of just knowing what he wanted to do, getting the ball down the field. So, we’ve just got to be aware it’s going to be different from just that aspect of the first time we played them, we really had their third quarterback in there."
Yes, It's The Jets™. But it's not Luke Falk anymore.
It always stands out when the Patriots have a winning percentage under .750 in anything. So it was striking to learn that the Patriots under Bill Belichick are "only" 9-7 in Monday night games on the road.
That's not necessarily a bad record, although it looks like one by the Patriots' standards. Since 2000, only seven teams with at least 10 road games on Monday night are over .500. (The Cowboys are first at 8-2; the Eagles are 12-5; the Steelers are 11-6; the Bears are 9-5; and the 49ers and Titans are both 6-4.) It speaks to how hard it is to win these games regardless of the competition and how good you have to be to gain even a slight edge.
The Patriots offense didn't play particularly well in last year's Monday road tilt at the Bills. Prior to that game, the Pats had lost three Monday night road games in a row: a putrid 27-20 loss in Miami in 2017, the infamous Kansas City Massacre in 2014, and a controversial 24-20 loss to the Panthers in 2013.
Weird stuff can happen in these settings. Either way we'll certainly need to see a better Brady than we saw in the games mentioned above.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].