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Patriots officially place fullback Jakob Johnson on injured reserve, open a spot on their 53-man roster

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Related: Patriots plan to use first IR-return designation on N’Keal Harry

New England Patriots v Buffalo Bills Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

Following the New England Patriots’ victory against the Miami Dolphins in Week 2, the team was forced to move fullback James Develin to injured reserve because of a neck injury. On Monday, his replacement officially joined him on the list: according to the team, it has placed Jakob Johnson on IR as well — a move that comes three days after initial reports broke about the Patriots planning to make such a move involving the first-year man.

Today’s announcement puts an early end to one of the biggest underdog stories in recent memory. Johnson joined the NFL through the league’s International Pathway Program after going undrafted in 2018 and spending a season playing in Germany. He was subsequently picked up by the Patriots, who gave him plenty of snaps during preseason and decided to sign him to their practice squad after he was released during roster cutdown day.

With the aforementioned Develin hurting his neck, Johnson was activated to the 53-man roster and went on to see considerable action over the last three games. While not on the same level as the starting fullback, the 24-year-old was a solid replacement option — one that will now have to sit out at least eight games before a potential return off IR. However, it seems highly unlikely that the Patriots will make such a move.

After all, the team has only two available IR-return spots and the expectation is that one of them will go to first-round rookie wide receiver N’Keal Harry. The second designation, meanwhile, will likely be used on starting left tackle Isaiah Wynn who was placed on injured reserve mid-September because of a toe injury and is eligible to return to practice after the Patriots’ Week 8 game against the Cleveland Browns.

Placing Johnson on injured reserve means that New England now has an open spot on its 53-man roster. Given today’s report that Benjamin Watson has been re-signed, it should be expected that the veteran tight end will be the one to fill it.