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Crockett Gillmore: Benjamin Watson Is Leader Of Ravens Tight Ends


One of the biggest questions of Ravens training camp has centered on the pecking order at tight end.

The Ravens' first depth chart showed Benjamin Watson as the starter, followed by Dennis Pitta, Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams, Daniel Brown, Nick Boyle and Darren Waller – in that order.

When talking to last year's starter, Gillmore, it's not a question.

Asked if Watson is the leader of the group, Gillmore said "absolutely."

"He is the guy," Gillmore said Tuesday. "He's everything that I've heard about."

With Pitta out last year, Gillmore was the elder statesman in just his second season. He started 10 games and caught 33 catches for 412 yards and four touchdowns.

Like any player, Gillmore wants to see as many reps as possible. After his second practice back from a reported hamstring injury, Gillmore said, "I know my role."

"I want to learn from these other guys," he said. "The fact that I can see it, that's something I can learn from every day – whether it's how they practice or the way they walk or talk. Ben's doing a great job of leading the room. I've been very impressed."

Watson started all 16 games for the Saints last season. It was his first time being the full-time starter since 2010 when he was with the Browns.

Watson played a career-high 1,003 offensive snaps, per Pro Football Focus (PFF). After taking about 50 percent of the snaps in 2013 and 2014, Watson saw a whopping 85 percent last year. He delivered when given the opportunity, posting career highs in receptions (74), receiving yards (825) and touchdowns (six – tied).

This year, Watson will have other tight ends beckoning to get the ball, however.

"I think that roles also change week to week, depending on personnel and things like that," Watson said. "Basically, my role coming here was to learn what to do, learn the offense and then be available for whatever [Offensive Coordinator Marc] Trestman and [Head Coach John] Harbaugh have for me."

Harbaugh said Watson is a smart and talented player, and he's seen him adjust well to his new team.

"He's going to make plays for us. He's playing very well," Harbaugh said.

With that said, don't rule out the other tight ends.

Before Pitta suffered a hand injury in a scuffle with rookie linebacker Kamalei Correa, he was looking like one of Joe Flacco's favorite targets once again, like he did before his second major hip injury.

Gillmore also showed a ton of promise when he was healthy last year, although that didn't last long as he dealt with shoulder injuries for nearly the entire season. Gillmore said his shoulders now feel "better than ever," and he's ready to contribute – even if that means fewer snaps per game.

"It's going to be punishment for the defense because I won't be as tired," Gillmore said. "Realistically, we have to be willing and able to do everything – whether it be split out, stay tight, stay in the backfield, play special teams, whatever."

Gillmore may be the best blocker of the group. Pitta may be the most nimble receiver. Watson has done both well for 12 years. In their second seaons, Williams and Boyle are both still learning as blockers and short-game receivers. Waller and Brown are big-bodied, converted wide receivers.

Harbaugh said the tight ends' roles will be determined by what they do in the preseason and even through the course of the season. Whoever performs will play.

"It's good to have options. As we say, 'It's a good problem to have,'" Harbaugh said. "I'm looking forward to seeing how that plays out. We're planning on utilizing all of those guys."

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