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Patriots Wednesday practice update: Shea McClellin returns, Stephon Gilmore is absent

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The Patriots are getting some help at linebacker.

Super Bowl LI - New England Patriots v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

We will have the full practice report when it is available, but initial reports from the New England Patriots practice indicate that edge defender Shea McClellin is close to a return. McClellin started the season on the injured reserve and his return to practice suggests an activation after the bye week in time to face the Denver Broncos.

McClellin’s value is obvious as the loss of Harvey Langi, who was injured in a serious car crash, was not at practice and is a candidate to be placed on the injured reserve. The two defenders play a very similar role, with McClellin playing on the edge, linebacker, and on special teams.

A return by McClellin will likely affect the playing time of Cassius Marsh, who has stepped up as the #2 edge defender opposite of Trey Flowers. McClellin hinted on Twitter that he was ready to play more edge in 2017 and his versatile skill set is perfect for what the Patriots want from their strongside linebacker. He will be the strongside linebacker in the 4-3 front, also seen as the stand-up edge player in the Patriots 5-2 front, and will move up to defensive end when the Patriots play their 4-2 nickel front.

The Patriots were still without cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore (concussion) and Eric Rowe (groin), which is a serious concern this week. The Atlanta Falcons have a talented receiving corps and New England can’t afford to lose two of their top three cornerbacks.

We’ll have the full injury report later today.