Benjamin Watson has been candid in discussing his return from a torn Achilles.
The 36-year-old tight end has said on multiple occasions that his recovery is a work in progress, and there are still movements he can't make as fluidly as before the injury.
Watson may not feel exactly like the same player he was before the injury, but he sure looked like a dynamic tight end again in Sunday's 24-10 victory over the Cleveland Browns. He was quarterback Joe Flacco's favorite target, catching eight passes for 91 yards and providing a much-needed spark for the offense.
"Just to see him break out like that, after what he has been through in the last year, is really good," Head Coach John Harbaugh said.
Flacco is looking to build chemistry with his receiving threats after he missed all of training camp with a back injury, and Watson could turn out to be a critical factor for the offense.
The Ravens must replace the production of Flacco's top target from last year, tight end Dennis Pitta (86 catches for 729 yards), and Watson has a similar skillset. Both players are sure-handed targets who know how to find soft spots in the middle of the field, and Watson demonstrated that ability in Sunday's win.
"It was great to get him involved," Flacco said. "He's a good player, and there were some holes out there, when we were able to play-action them, not necessarily the ones that were way downfield, but in the 10-15 yard range, when we were in a play-action and I was able to come up right off of those things and have guys with some room."
Watson has the longest resume of any tight end on the roster, and he's the best receiving threat of the bunch. When healthy and playing for the New Orleans Saints in 2015, he caught a career-high 74 passes for 825 yards and six touchdowns.
The Ravens signed Watson to a two-year deal reportedly worth $8 million after his big season in New Orleans, but he tore his Achilles in the preseason and didn't get to show what he could do. Putting up big numbers was an encouraging sign for the 14-year veteran, but Watson downplayed it after the game.
"It's just one game," Watson said. "Every game is different. From week to week, you never know how it's going to turn out. You may not hear a guy's name for a couple of games, but that does not mean he's not doing his job. It just means things change throughout the course of a season.
"Again, I'm happy to be involved in the offense today, happy we got the win. Next week may be something totally different."
Watson also said he's continuing to make strides physically every week. He first returned to full-contact drills at the start of training camp and he's now 13 months removed from the injury. He looks more explosive than he did over a month ago, and he believes he has room to grow throughout the season.
"I still think I'm going to get stronger and stronger physically," Watson said. "The way the training staff brought me along has allowed me to feel the best that I can feel at this point without having any type of setbacks."