During the height of San Francisco tight end Brent Jones' career, he averaged four receptions and 45 yards per game in the West Coast offense.
John Carlson, tight end for the Seattle Seahawks, had 51 catches for 574 yards and seven touchdowns last year. Tony Gonzalez of the Atlanta Falcons had 83 catches for 867 yards and six touchdowns. Brent Celek of the Eagles had 76 catches for 978 yards and eight touchdowns.
All four of these tight ends play or played in a West Coast offense. Tight ends are a huge part of any successful West Coast offense, and that is why Mike Holmgren went out and made Ben Watson his second free-agent signing.
The Browns' Steve Heiden, Robert Royal, Evan Moore, Greg Estandia, and Michael Gaines combined for 40 catches for 469 yards and three TDs. Watson had 29 catches for 404 yards and five TDs in a Patriots system that did not emphasize the tight end very much.
Expect Watson to start and Evan Moore to be the primary backup in passing situations since West Coast tight ends are primarily route runners instead of blockers.
Watson is a very athletic tight end who has the skill set to be successful at whatever the Browns throw at him. He still has one of the highest Wonderlic scores ever recorded, so picking up a new offense should be no problem.
Moore showed an excellent ability to get open and catch the football late last year. He almost seems constructed for the West Coast offense when you look at the other tight ends on the list.
He could definitely stand to bulk up some, but he has the right frame and hands for the job. A graduate of Stanford, he too should have no problem picking up the West Coast offense.
The West Coast offense is more of a philosophy than a set of scripted plays. It stipulates that an offense should pass the ball to spread the defense horizontally to set up the run, not the other way around. Therefore, it is a passing, ball-control offense.
It achieves this by using short, high-percentage passing routes. Since the routes are short, ideally the quarterback throws quickly; thus the need for additional blockers is lessened, and more receivers can be used. Typically this means the tight end gets out and runs a lot of actual routes where he may very well get the ball.
Oftentimes mismatches such as running backs on linebackers and tight ends on linebackers occur, and this is one instance where a big play can happen.
Even if Watson is covered by the person assigned to him, odds are, with the West Coast system, the matchup is favorable and he will succeed more often than not.
As Watson becomes more successful as the season progresses and teams start to game-plan for him and/or Moore, this will allow the Browns receivers to take advantage of the safeties who have been forced closer to the line of scrimmage by the West Coast offense.
Receivers like Mohamed Massaquoi and Josh Cribbs will have a chance to run right by or break tackles for longer runs because of the tight ends and the West Coast system.
By throwing lots of short passes, the West Coast offense gets the ball to the faster players in open space more frequently.
Twenty-yard pass plays used to mean long deep out or deep in patterns with a strong-armed quarterback, but now more frequently the 20-yard play involves a six-yard pass to a talented receiver like Cribbs or rookie Carlton Mitchell, who made a couple of good moves—and perhaps got a block downfield from a fellow receiver.
Jake Delhomme is going to find Watson and/or Moore early and often this year, especially as the quarterback himself gets comfortable in the hybrid West Coast offense.
Look for Watson and Moore to become security blankets and Royal to be primarily a blocking tight end. The West Coast system opens up running lanes by stretching the field horizontally also, so Jerome Harrison and Montario Hardesty should have decent yards per rush averages.
At the end of the year Ben Watson, barring injury, will probably have the best statistical year of his career and will have had a very positive impact on the Cleveland Browns offense.