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Opinion: Replacing Benjamin Watson is not enough

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NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

I’m not here to write a pretty introduction; it’s game time.

Benjamin Watson is gone; the 37-year old tight end signed with the New Orleans Saints. Now, the Ravens are banking on the youth movement, whether it be the brand new roster additions of first-round pick Hayden Hurst or the third-round selection Mark Andrews, or, if not these men, the ‘veterans’ Maxx Williams, Nick Boyle and Darren Waller hopefully put this damn game together. Either way, somebody, please, step up.

Most times when I write, I attempt to come off as a ‘professional’, but now, I write as a fan pleading for at least one Baltimore Raven to become the tight end of the future, here in the present.

Fans are out of patience; no more are the excuses. Fans are done with the Joe Flacco excuses, done with the injury excuses, done with the coaching excuses. We’re exhausted with the word, ‘potential’, and are craving the word ‘production.’ But this article is tight end oriented, and I’m going to stick with the message.

The stat-line of Benjamin Watson last season:

16 games | 12 starts | 79 targets | 61 catches | 522 yards | four touchdowns

Due to the dump-off offense of Joe Flacco and Marty Mornhinweg, Watson led the team in receptions. I know many of you shuddered from this, and I’m only going to evoke more frustration cause teams are strategizing explicitly for this. I can no longer watch a 3rd & 8 without throwing money at my television and shouting into the void, “Bet it’s going to a tight end on a drag route!”

The previous seasons cannot simply be replicated, they must be more. For once, somebody, step up.

As my grandfather taught me for years now, a man’s word is bond, and until proven wrong, I put my faith in Hayden Hurst. His absolute loyalty in the phone call with Ozzie screams determination:

(This begins at 0:15)

Ozzie Newsome: “Hey, you’ve worked hard to get to this point and I got about ten guys and a couple of young ladies in this room just excited that we’re bringing you to Baltimore to be a part of what we’re going to do.”

Hayden Hurst: “I couldn’t be happier, it’s a perfect fit. You got your guy. You got the best tight end and I’m going to come in and prove it.”

Oz: “I got the best tight end and you’re going to come in and prove it?”

HH: “Absolutely.”

Ravens fans know passion and they also know the lack thereof; from Ray Lewis and Ed Reed to players cashing a paycheck and leaning back on the bench to not catch their coaches eye. But Hayden, within a moment of speaking to the Hall of Fame tight end and General Manager, resigns complete loyalty to the Ravens:

Oz: “From the first time I saw you on tape, I go, ‘this is a guy that can come go on our football team.’”

HH: “Absolutely. You got it right, I promise you.”

Oz: “You promise me?”

HH: “Yessir.”


At this point, I’m resigned to Williams, Boyle and Waller not becoming a number one option. They’re capable number two’s, but they cannot lead this unit in receptions. I appreciate Ozzie, John Harbaugh and Eric DeCosta re-vamping this unit with Hurst and Andrews. Now, it’s for the delivery.

As I mentioned, simply replicating Watson’s numbers is not enough, though. At least one of these five must over-achieve. I’m certain zero fans would be upset if it was Waller, Boyle or Andrews. They’d also love Hurst or Williams becoming a threat. It’s only the frustration of witnessing nobody step up and deliver, which clenches the fists of upset fans as they raise fists to the sky in confusion.