FORMER Essendon centreman Jobe Watson expects the Bombers to be playing their best football in the second-half of the AFL season.
With Joe Daniher (calf) to miss the opening six weeks and coach John Worsfold tweaking the club's defence, Watson warned it could take time for the side to hit its straps.
"I think it might replicate last year a bit in that I think the second half of the year will be better than the first," Watson said.
"It's just a matter of whether it will be 4-4 or 2-4.
"Ben Rutten has come over from Richmond and he's implementing a new style of defence so generally that takes half a year at best.
"I think they will track similarly to last year but they are probably a bit more progressed this season."
Essendon finished four premiership points and percentage outside the top eight last year after winning only two of its opening eight matches.
Watson rates Fremantle's Nate Fyfe as the best player in the game.
"I think Fyfe's the most dominant player," he said.
"'Buddy' (Franklin) is in a league of his own when he's up and going but he's getting on a bit now.
"People want to see the best players perform and I think the rule changes will help that."
Watson was the guest speaker at Albury's season launch on Friday.