In four games, Browns TE Benjamin Watson already had more catches (18) than any Cleveland tight end had a season ago, and he has emerged as perhaps the top target in the passing game in his first season in Cleveland. But he is not purely a pass catcher, nor does he want to be.
"The thing about tight end is I like to do both," Watson said of receiving and blocking. "… That's what I like about the position."
Watson, who previously was with New England for six seasons, has added some explosiveness to the Cleveland passing game. In Week Two, he showed what a tough matchup he can be on a 44-yard catch vs. Kansas City. Watson, lined up in the right slot in a four-WR set, broke free over the middle, caught a pass from QB Seneca Wallace and burst into the secondary. When Chiefs rookie SS Eric Berry took a poor angle on Watson, the Browns' tight end was on his way to his longest play of the season.
"At this stage of my carrier, I still think I have some speed left," Watson said, citing that as his greatest strength.
Watson, 29, is doing his part as a blocker in the running game, too. For example, on RB Peyton Hillis' game-clinching 24-yard run off right tackle vs. Cincinnati in Week Four, Watson got a good block on Bengals SLB Rey Maualuga on a collectively well-blocked play highlighted by OLG Eric Steinbach pulling and getting a piece of a Bengals defender.
"All of those (runs) are designed to have a hat-on-a-hat," Watson said, referring to the importance of teamwork and good blocking on any run so that the back has no more than one or two unblocked defenders to beat.
In the passing game, the Browns spread the ball around, with 11 players having catches entering Week Five, but Watson, the only Browns player with at least three catches in each game this season, has had a consistent role. That extends to the ground game, too. These concepts work hand in hand; as Watson notes, his "improved ability to block allows me to be on the field more and get more opportunities."
He has had plenty of work in both areas in Cleveland, which is fine by him.