In July, the New England Patriots signed veteran tight end Visanthe Shiancoe to a one-year deal. He was brought on to join star tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski becoming a part of the Patriots lethal tight end focused passing game. But Shiancoe was injured before the season even started and was placed on short-term injured reserve during week one. He’s finally back practicing for the Patriots and not a moment too soon.
One major issue the Patriots have had this year is the injury to Hernandez. The Pro Bowler injured his ankle during the team’s week two loss to the Arizona Cardinals. After missing three weeks because of the injury, he returned to action against the Seattle Seahawks in week six. After the team’s week seven overtime win against the New York Jets they headed across the Atlantic to play in the annual London game but Hernandez didn’t join the team.
After not being seen at practice and not traveling to England for the team’s week eight game with the St. Louis Rams, Hernandez was not seen at the Patriots lone bye week practice on Thursday. His absence Thursday will fuel more speculation that his ankle injury is worse than the team will say and he may not be returning for some time.
Hernandez’s injury forced the Patriots to stray away from their highly successful duel tight end focused passing game and use a more conventional plan. With Hernandez seemingly out for several more weeks, Shiancoe’s return could be coming at the right time.
Over the past two weeks Shiancoe has been gradually getting more involved in team practices and could soon be activated. His recent involvement in the team’s physical activities gives the indication that his return could be approaching soon. This would give the Patriots an opportunity to go back to their duel tight end passing game that they’ve been so successful with over the past year and a half.
The Patriots 5-3 start this season has been widely considered a disappointment for the team that was expected to repeat as AFC champions. A combination of key injuries and inconsistent play offensively is partly at fault for that record. With Hernandez likely out for an extended period of time, Shiancoe’s return will help the Patriots maintain their current momentum heading down the stretch of the regular season.