Wide receiver Donte' Stallworth made his return to Foxboro this spring after a four-year absence to the surprise of some fans. The team was seemingly set at wide receiver but chose to take a flyer on the former first-rounder.
Fortunately for Stallworth, things were made a bit easier for him with the releases of wideouts Chad "Ochocinco" Johnson and Anthony Gonzalez. Even with their releases though, Stallworth is in a logjam, fighting for a role in the offense and a spot on the 53-man roster.
Stallworth has received first-team reps in the preseason but has not been able to capitalize. In New England's first preseason game against the Saints, Stallworth managed just one catch for one yard. Monday night, he hauled in a 20-yard pass but failed to capitalize on other opportunities.
On deep balls versus the Eagles, it became clear he was missing that extra gear to go over the top and make the play. Stallworth, some fans hoped, would give the Patriots an extra deep threat. At this point in his career, he is just that—a threat. It is becoming clear, though, that his threat is not a legitimate one for defensive coordinators to worry about.
Even when Stallwowrth does break behind the defense, his hands are not always to be counted on. He has had trouble with drops throughout training camp, according to Andy Hart of Patriots Football Weekly.
Also in camp, he has tried to add some extra insurance to his roster spot by trying his hand at kickoff returns, something he has not done since 2003 with the Saints. Unfortunately for him, though, the Patriots signed Olympic silver medalist and former Florida running back Jeff Demps, who will factor into the return game immediately when he steps onto the practice field this week.
Possibly adding another stake in the coffin last night was the performance of Deion Branch. Branch was active, snagging three passes for a team-high 51 yards. Branch and Stallworth will absolutely be the men fighting for that sixth receiver spot if the team decides to keep six rather than seven. Seven receivers seems a bit unlikely since the team may keep five running backs and three tight ends.
Stallworth may have been a catch for teams to go grab the first time he left New England in March of 2008, but this time around, Stallworth's release could bring his time in the National Football League to an end.