Baltimore Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson has been around a long time.
Now in his 13th NFL season, Watson has caught 450 passes for more than 5,100 yards and has 39 touchdowns. At 6-foot-3 and 255 pounds, he’s got size, hands and experience, and Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is making good use of Watson in the veteran’s first year with the Ravens. Watson leads Baltimore with 16 catches. He’s been both productive and reliable, catching 16 of 18 passes thrown his way.
So on Sunday, when the Raiders play host to the Ravens at the Oakland Coliseum, containing Watson will be a key factor in how well Oakland can slow Flacco and Co.
And, much of that responsibility is likely to fall on Raiders strong safety Karl Joseph.
Watson, who suffered a torn Achilles’ tendon a year ago, has come back strong. Flacco loves the fact Watson can find open spaces in opposing secondaries.
“He’s a good player and there are some holes out there, when we were able to play-action them … in the 10- to 15-yard range,” said Flacco earlier this season after Watson had eight catches for 91 yards against Cleveland.
The Raiders have been bitten, time and again, over the past few seasons by opposing tight ends. It’s been one of their weak points. Two weeks ago, Washington veteran Vernon Davis – the former 49er – had five catches for 58 yards and a TD in a win over the Raiders. In Week 1, another former 49er, Delanie Walker, had seven receptions for 76 yards for Tennessee.
Joseph and his defensive mates will need to lock on to Watson throughout the game to take away Flacco’s No. 1 target, especially on third downs, to get the Ravens off the field. So far, that hasn’t been one of the Raiders’ strong suits. Oakland ranks 26th in the NFL, allowing opponents to convert on third downs 45.6 percent of the time.
If the 2-2 Raiders are to bounce back after two straight losses, how they handle Watson will be a key.
Sunday’s game is set to kick off at 1:05 p.m.