Patriots have help on the way in N’Keal Harry and Ben Watson
The New England Patriots are reportedly getting both N’Keal Harry and Benjamin Watson back to help reinforce their injury-decimated offense.
Four days after they were forced into utilizing just one personnel grouping for pretty much the entire second half of their game against the New York Giants, the New England Patriots are making moves to expand and strengthen their injury-riddled offense.
According to ESPN’s Mike Reiss, the Pats are expected to re-sign veteran tight end Benjamin Watson… perhaps as early as Monday. The team is reportedly sitting down with Watson to discuss terms for a new deal, just one week after he was surprisingly notified of his release. At the time, New England head coach Bill Belichick claimed the Patriots simply didn’t have any room on their roster for Watson to get activated after serving a four-week suspension.
That has obviously changed in the light of a number of injuries to New England’s offense. Josh Gordon, Matt LaCosse, and Jakob Johnson were all injured Thursday night against the Giants. Even before the game kicked off, New England was down a number of offensive starters, including David Andrews, Isaiah Wynn, Rex Burkhead, Phillip Dorsett, N’Keal Harry, and James Develin.
The good news for the Patriots is that it also now appears they could be getting Harry back at an opportune time.
Per USA Today’s Henry McKenna, Harry is set to return to practice this week. While he won’t be eligible to play this week against the New York Jets or next week against the Cleveland Browns, he could conceivably suit up for action against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 9 before the Patriots have their bye week, per league rules.
Wynn, the team’s starting left tackle when healthy, could also soon return to the fold if he’s ready to go. He’s eligible to begin practicing immediately after the Browns game, and could return to the Patriots’ starting lineup for their Week 11 game against the Philadelphia Eagles if his turf toe injury allows it.
New England is still having no problems putting up points this season, but they’ve struggled at times to get their run game going behind a makeshift offensive line. The Patriots also have some serious depth issues at wide receiver and tight end – issues that could potentially be mollified by regular contributions from Watson and Harry.
If Harry is good to go, he would most likely slide in as the team’s No. 3 or No. 4 receiver and line up on the outside opposite Gordon, with Edelman working the slot. Dorsett’s hamstring injury that caused him to miss Week 6 also isn’t considered to be serious, so if he returns in time for the Jets game, the Patriots could have Edelman, Gordon, Dorsett, and Harry as their top four wideouts, with undrafted rookies Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski returning to depth positions.
Watson projects to immediately become the top tight end in this New England offense, given his long history of playing for Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels, his familiarity with the Patriots system, and his chemistry with Tom Brady. Ryan Izzo would move back into a secondary role as the team’s No. 2 tight end option, and LaCosse could finally be afforded the time he needs to get his knee and ankle injuries fully healed.
Hopefully the Patriots are getting most of their 2019 injury woes over with earlier in the year as opposed to later on in the winter months and during the playoffs. It’s obviously never ideal for an NFL team to have to cope with so many injuries, but it’s undoubtedly better for them to occur now in September and October than it is for them to happen later in December or January.