One of the prevailing storylines of New England Patriots training camp has been the team’s ongoing effort to identify Rob Gronkowski’s replacement at tight end.
In an interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio that aired Monday, Patriots coach Bill Belichick offered his take on this hotly contested roster battle.
“Well, I think it’s a very competitive position,” Belichick told hosts Pat Kirwan and Jim Miller. “We have a couple of young players, and we have some experienced players. Obviously, Ben Watson — we go all the way back with Ben. But Ben’s a quality person. He has a lot of experience. One of the most athletic players we’ve ever had here for his size. He still possesses a great deal of ability.”
Watson has an intimate familiarity with the Patriots after spending his first six NFL seasons (2004 to 2009) in New England. A PED suspension will sideline the 38-year-old until Week 5, however, leaving Matt LaCosse, Stephen Anderson, Ryan Izzo and the newly signed Lance Kendricks to spar for the Week 1 starting job.
“We just brought in Lance Kendricks, signed Matt LaCosse in the offseason,” Belichick continued. “Ryan Izzo. Stephen Anderson’s more of a receiving tight end, but he has some experience in the league. So it’s a very competitive position. The players have some different skills, but they all catch the ball well. They’re all smart and can do multiple things, which is important to us offensively because of our formationing and so forth.
“So we’ll see how that shakes out here as we go through camp and preseason.”
Izzo and Anderson both were with the Patriots last season, but neither appeared in a regular-season game. Izzo, a 2018 seventh-round draft pick, landed on injured reserve after the preseason. Anderson wasn’t promoted from the practice squad until the playoffs, then sat out all three postseason games as a healthy scratch.
The Patriots also gave former Texas tight end/H-back Andrew Beck the most guaranteed money of any of their 2019 undrafted free agents, but he’s worked more as a fullback in training camp. The fact Belichick didn’t mention him in his response suggests the ex-Longhorn isn’t part of the team’s tight end plans at this time.
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