What can Ben Watson's return give Patriots at tight end? Josh McDaniels explains

What can Ben Watson's return give Patriots at tight end? Josh McDaniels explains

The New England Patriots will get a boost ahead of Week 5 with the return of tight end Benjamin Watson.

The 38-year-old veteran was suspended for the first four games of the regular season because of a failed drug test, but he's eligible to play Sunday when the Patriots play the winless Washington Redskins on the road.

Watson signed a one-year contract with the Patriots in the offseason, and his addition is a welcomed one. Patriots tight ends Ryan Izzo and Matt LaCosse have combined to tally just four receptions for 77 yards and zero touchdowns on five targets through four games. It's been a long time since the Patriots received so little from tight ends in their passing attack. 

What can Watson provide the Patriots? Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels explained Tuesday in a conference call with reporters.

"Ben is a versatile guy," McDaniels said. "He's a smart guy. He certainly has made a lot of plays in his career. He gives us an element of speed and experience at the tight end position. He's been a productive guy, made plays under pressure. Ben coming back here, it's great to have him back. Hopefully we'll be able to move forward with him in a role that suits his skill set and our team."

Watson doesn't need to come in and be Rob Gronkowski's replacement -- no one player will replace the future Hall of Fame tight end.

He just needs to give the Patriots a legitimate receiving threat at tight end, and he's capable of providing that. Watson tallied 35 receptions for 400 yards and two touchdowns with the New Orleans Saints last season, and he already has six seasons of experience catching passes from Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (2004 through 2009).

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Updated Patriots cornerback depth chart after Michael Jackson trade with Lions

Updated Patriots cornerback depth chart after Michael Jackson trade with Lions

The New England Patriots added even more depth to an elite group of cornerbacks Sunday by acquiring Michael Jackson in a trade with the Detroit Lions.

Jackson, who's listed at 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, was a fifth-round draft pick by the Dallas Cowboys in 2019. The Detroit Lions signed him off the Cowboys practice squad last season and he played in one game for the NFC North team.

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Here's an updated look at the Patriots' cornerback depth chart with Jackson in the fold:

--Stephon Gilmore
--Jason McCourty
--J.C. Jackson
--Jonathan Jones
--Joejuan Williams
--Michael Jackson
--Myles Bryant
--D’Angelo Ross

It should be noted that Justin Bethel is listed at cornerback, but most of his snaps come on special teams. 

A strong case could be made that cornerback is the deepest position on the Patriots roster. The group is led by Stephon Gilmore, who became the first Patriot ever to win the AP's NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2019. Gilmore is the league's best cornerback and has earned first team All-Pro selections in back-to-back seasons. 

He's not the only talented cornerback in the Patriots secondary, though. 

J.C. Jackson excelled in coverage last season, too, especially on passes beyond 20 yards. In fact, Jackson had the lowest passer rating allowed when targeted of all cornerbacks in 2019, according to Pro Football Focus.

One of the most intriguing players in the Patriots secondary is second-year cornerback Joejuan Williams. He was a second-round pick out of Vanderbilt in 2019 but saw limited playing time as a rookie.

The depth of the Patriots defense has been hit hard in recent months due to free agent departures and veterans opting out of the 2020 season amid concerns over COVID-19. One position that has remained largely intact is cornerback, and barring any significant injuries, it could be the team's most productive position this coming season.

Patriots acquire CB Michael Jackson in trade with Lions

Patriots acquire CB Michael Jackson in trade with Lions

The New England Patriots have added another cornerback to their depth chart.

On Sunday, they announced they've acquired Michael Jackson from the Detroit Lions for an undisclosed 2022 draft pick.

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Jackson was selected in the fifth round of the 2019 NFL Draft (158th overall) by the Dallas Cowboys out of Miami. He started his rookie season on Dallas' practice squad before being signed by Detroit.

The 23-year-old played in only one game last season for the Lions.

Jackson joins a Patriots cornerback group that currently consists of Stephon Gilmore, Jonathan Jones, Joejuan Williams, Jason McCourty, J.C. Jackson, D'Angelo Ross, Justin Bethel, and Myles Bryant.