Taking stock of Patriots' Tuesday moves


Taking stock of Patriots' Tuesday moves

Two surprising moves by the Patriots on Tuesday evening.

Sending Donte Stallworth to IR barely a week after signing him, less than 24 hours after he caught a 63-yard touchdown and seemed fresh as a daisy in the locker room was the big surprise.

Releasing tight end Visanthe Shiancoe was the more mild of the two.

Gresh's Grades:
Still things to clean up after a dominating win?

Stallworth first. The fact he spent at least 30 minutes conducting interviews after Monday night's win over the Texans is what's odd here. Normally, when a guy gets hurt during the game he'll be in the training room after or getting X-rays.

I'm not saying he didn't, nor is it impossible that something he thought was minor and not worth mentioning he came to find out was a much bigger issue.

Either way, his 2012 season is over, but at least his one game included a highlight.

A source told me Tuesday night the Patriots are likely to summon back Deion Branch who's been working out and told me two weeks ago he was "close" to being back to full go.

Branch and Stallworth have different skills. Stallworth is a better downfield receiver and better after the catch. Branch is a better route-runner and has better hands and a bigger array of short routes he's proficient at. The man coverage the Texans were using Monday night is something Branch doesn't work as well against as he used to, but he is a very good receiver against zone.

As for Shiancoe, well, that didn't work out. The Patriots were light at tight end coming out of last season and Shiancoe was part of the fleet of players the Patriots have thrown at the position. When the Patriots placed Shiancoe on IR with the "designated to return" attached to him, you figured when he did become available to the team, he'd emerge. But the development of Michael Hoomanawanui and Daniel Fells' usefulness as a blocker and occasional threat down the seam made Shiancoe a spare part.

Why did they use the "designated to return" label on him instead of, say, rookie Jeff Demps? The Patriots' crystal ball must have been malfunctioning that day. But the emphasis on the tight end position in the New England offense is obvious. Being sure they had enough bodies to fill the spot if injuries arose (and they have) or Fells went down, it likely made more sense to make sure Shiancoe was there to fill the myriad tight end jobs rather than keeping the spot open for a kick returner with a spotty history of protecting the football in college.

THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Titans roll to 36-22 victory over Jaguars


THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Titans roll to 36-22 victory over Jaguars

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - There's nothing like a visit from the Jacksonville Jaguars to make the Tennessee Titans remember how to protect their home field.

Marcus Mariota threw for 270 yards and two touchdowns to end his home struggles and the Titans had their highest point total of the season in a 36-22 victory over the Jaguars on Thursday night.

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Develin stays on top of tight end techniques in case he's next man up


Develin stays on top of tight end techniques in case he's next man up

FOXBORO -- Once the Patriots traded AJ Derby to the Broncos for a fifth-round pick earlier this week, they were left with just two tight ends on their roster. While those two tight ends -- Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett -- have played as two of the best tight ends in football this season, it's a position group that has been considerably thinned. 

Until coach Bill Belichick adds another player at that spot, James Develin would be the logical "next man up." A position group unto himself as the team's lone active fullback -- the other fullback in the locker room is practice-squad player Glenn Gronkowski -- Develin meets with Patriots tight ends and coach Brian Daboll on a daily basis because the fullback and tight-end responsibilities in the Patriots offense are similar, particularly in the run game.

As much time as he spends with that group, Develin tries to absorb what he can when it comes to the nuances of the position. 

"I always kind of try to prepare, obviously, for my fullback role, but then in any other role that I might be called upon for," Develin said on Thursday. "A couple years ago, we had a bunch of injuries during the offseason program, during OTAs, and I filled in a little bit at tight end. I try to keep myself familiar with all those techniques and that tight end role so if the day were to come where I needed to go out there and do it, I'd be able to go out there and do it."

When the Patriots began the season relying more on the run, Develin was called upon to play a relatively significant role in the offense. He averaged 21.3 snaps per game through the first three games of the season, but that number has fallen to 13.6 since Tom Brady's return from a four-game suspension. Still, his role can be a critical one. 

The Patriots' running game faltered last season after both Blount and Dion Lewis went down with season-ending injuries. Having Develin in the mix as an extra blocker would not have guaranteed a more efficient attack, but it may have helped the team's running-game woes late in the year. 

Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels now has the luxury of bringing Develin onto the field when he wants some added muscle for his blocking schemes, and should the Patriots need a tight end in a pinch, Develin could do that too.

"A lot of times, especially in the blocking game, really the only difference [between fullback and tight end] is that I'm five yards off the ball in the backfield and they're up on the line," Develin said. "The angles are a little bit different. But a lot of times the assignment is typcially the same thing. It's just the technique of getting there and the angles that you take.

"Then in the passing game, as a tight end, there's just a lot more routes and stuff like that. I try to work on that to help me as a fullback to be a little bit better in space . . . It's a sybiotic relationship." 

As it is, Develin will line up occasionally outside. Though not a threat as a receiver in that spot in the same way that Gronkowski or Bennett would be, he understands some of the different looks tight ends have to be comfortable with.

If an emergency arose and he was asked to fill that role, he wouldn't hesitate.

"There's a little bit of carry-over depending on what we're doing or whatever play we have called where I'll line up on the line," he said. "But that's kind of what a fullback has to do. You kind of have to be able to be thrown into whatever position on the field that you gotta do and you gotta just do your job."