FOXBORO – In five years as a Patriot, Daniel Graham built a reputation as a devastating force in the running game who could double as a tackle. And when he left for Denver in March, a void was left that won’t easily be filled. But know this: Benjamin Watson intends to try.

In five years as a Patriot, Daniel Graham built a reputation as a devastating force in the running game who could double as a tackle. And when he left for Denver in March, a void was left that won’t easily be filled.

But know this: Benjamin Watson intends to try.

Coming out of Georgia in 2004, he was known as a raw athlete who, while possessing Herculean strength, brought little to the table when his job wasn’t catching passes. Pro Football Weekly assessed it by saying,  “Lacks power as a blocker … Is inconsistent and lacks mental toughness. Can improve as an in-line blocker and do a better job sustaining blocks.”

Three years later, he has improved. Down the stretch last year, Watson showed better technique and effectiveness in the running game. Early on in training camp, the arc seems to continue to move upward.

“I’m definitely better than I was two years ago, a year ago,” said Watson. “And hopefully a year from now, I’ll be better than I am now.”

During a blitz pick-up drill on Monday, where tight ends had to protect against edge-rushing outside linebackers, that much was obvious.

On his first rep, Watson flexed out and extended to engage Pierre Woods, and influenced him further outside, then rode him off balance and to the ground. On the next one, Chad Brown put an outside-in move on Watson, who caught him on a rip move, knocked him off-balance and to the ground.

“Guys come into this league and then maybe haven't done something in college that they're asked to do in the National Football League - a different scheme, a different set of skills,” said coach Bill Belichick. “Then after a couple of years - or maybe less than that, whatever the amount of time is - they become competitive at it and then eventually maybe really good at it.”

Watson seems to be well on his way. If he can continue ascending, he may just be able to soften the blow levied by Graham’s departure.

The spot Graham inhabited, the ‘Y’ position, will demand he be a more traditional on-the-line tight end, rather than the H-back spot where he has seen most of his snaps at to this point. He’ll have to stay in more often on pass plays, and more run plays will go his way.

So a perceived weakness will have to be a strength, and Watson’s ready to prove it will be.

“A lot of it is want-to and a lot of it is technique,” he said. “It’s a combination, like anything else. In our offense, at my position, it’s something you gotta do if you want to get on the field. They expect you to be able to run routes and they expect you to be able to block, it’s just what tight ends do. So that being said, the coaches have helped me work on it and the coaches and I’ve put forth extra effort on it."