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In Focus: What Kellen Winslow’s addition means for Patriots’ offense

09.18.12 at 8:05 am ET

With the news that Aaron Hernandez is expected to be on the shelf for multiple weeks because of an ankle injury he suffered last Sunday against the Cardinals, it appears the Patriots are ready to sign tight end Kellen Winslow Jr.

The 29-year-old Winslow, who was checked out earlier this month by the Patriots after he was cut by the Seahawks, would theoretically take up some of the slack in the wake of Hernandez’s departure. Winslow caught 75 passes for 763 yards and two touchdowns with the Buccaneers last season, and he’s recorded at least 66 catches while accounting for 730 or more receiving yards in each of the last three years.

The Patriots do have some depth at the spot — Rob Gronkowski remains healthy, while fellow tight end Michael Hoomanawanui (who was signed Sept. 5) and Daniel Fells (who has been battling a shin injury) all remain on the active roster. (Visanthe Shiancoe was placed on injured reserve with designation to return shortly before the start of the season.)

However, Winslow’s body type (6-foot-4, 240 pounds) is more along the lines of the longer, leaner Hernandez (6-foot-1, 245 pounds). As evidenced by his career receiving numbers, the University of Miami product is more of a pass catcher than blocker, and if he’s healthy (there are questions about the health of his knees), he can provide the sort of support in the passing game that Hoomanawanui and Fells might not be able to offer. While he doesn’t have the same sort of positional versatility that Hernandez does — and it should take him some time to get up to speed in the passing game — Winslow should take a sizable portion of the snaps that Hernandez received in the New England offense.

The signing is also an indication that the Patriots expect to be without Hernandez for an extended stretch. While coach Bill Belichick wouldn’t comment on Hernandez and his health on Monday, several reports indicate that the Florida product could be sidelined for four to six weeks with the injury he sustained in the first half of Sunday’s loss to Arizona.

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