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Quick Kicks: Stallworth one-and-done, Shiancoe cut; Branch back?

Two stunning moves late today by the Patriots. First, they placed wide receiver Donte’ Stallworth on injured reserve, abruptly ending his third stint with New England after just one game  (albeit a memorable one).


Stallworth apparently suffered an ankle injury during his 63-yard touchdown catch-and-run Monday night against Houston. He was not a factor in the Patriots' offense thereafter.

The second head-scratcher was the release of veteran tight end Visanthe Shiancoe. Though he hadn't been a major part of the game plan, he is a curious cut because New England chose to expend their one and only injured reserve-designated for return tag for this season on him. Why bother using that designation on a player you have no intent on keeping? Seems like a considerable waste of resources.

Now, with two open roster spots on the 53, the Patriots remain dangerously thin at wide receiver. When the team announced both moves this evening, media reports immediately began speculating that Deion Branch was inevitably bound to return to Foxborough. In fact, his locker has remained intact since he was cut a few weeks ago after developing a hamstring injury.

The Patriots also have a pair of wide receivers on the practice squad — rookie Jeremy Ebert and second-year player Kamar Aiken. It's possible either could be promoted to the active roster this week. Ebert might make sense both for offensive and special teams purposes (he return kicks during training camp and could help fill the void left by Julian Edelman's recent loss to IR).

With Shiancoe departing, what could that mean for the tight end position, where the club currently has four remaining players: Aaron Hernandez, Daniel Fells, Michael Hoomanawanui, and, of course, All-Pro Rob Gronkowski, who's recovering from a broken left forearm. Every player the team has signed to the roster at tight end this season has missed time due to one injury or another. Might Shiancoe's departure mean Gronk is on the verge of returning after just a few weeks on the shelf?

Possibly, but I would hesitate to rush back a player who is so integral to the success of the Patriots offense. There might be a greater need at the moment at wide receiver, or even offensive line, which has also been beset with injuries all season (versatile backup Nick McDonald was inactive with a shoulder problem versus Houston).

In any event, New England will be making more roster moves very soon. Stay tuned…

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