New England Patriots should use Jakob Johnson as a weapon a lot more

New England Patriots fullback Jakob Johnson #47 (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)
New England Patriots fullback Jakob Johnson #47 (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images) /

Fun fact: New England Patriots fullback Jakob Johnson played tight end before signing with the team in 2019.

In his one season with the Stuttgart Scorpions of the German Football League, Johnson caught 43 passes for 474 yards and four touchdowns. So why don’t the Patriots use Johnson more as a weapon?

Johnson hasn’t disappointed since becoming the starting fullback for the Patriots. Whether it’s been Sony Michel, Damien Harris, or Rhamondre Stevenson, Johnson has been an effective lead blocker for whoever he escorts through the hole.

There’s nothing wrong with the offense. The run game is imposing. Quarterback Mac Jones bounced back from three underwhelming games with arguably his best game of his young career against the Cleveland Browns in Week 10. Tight end Hunter Henry has caught at least one touchdown in six of the last seven games. Kendrick Bourne is on pace for a career high in receiving yards. But that’s not to say the offense couldn’t use improving, because it could.

Incorporating Jakob Johnson in the passing game would make the New England Patriots offense better

Signing free agent tight ends Henry and Jonnu Smith was a strong indication that Johnson wouldn’t be involved in the passing game very much this season. But for a franchise that values versatility, it’s myopic to utilize Johnson solely as a battering ram.

Less than half the league has a fullback on their roster according to Over the Cap. Only the San Francisco 49ers’ Kyle Juszczyk and Minnesota Vikings’ C.J. Ham are utilized as receivers. They’re the only ones with at least 10 receptions in 2021.

The element of surprise would be a huge advantage for Johnson when used as a receiver. Against the New York Jets, Johnson got free for a 29-yard catch and run. As bad as the Jets are, they wouldn’t be the only team caught off guard by Johnson running a route.

If that isn’t a compelling enough case to use Johnson as a receiver more, the Patriots coaching staff should recall how Johnson’s predecessor was used as a receiver.

James Develin was a pile-driving blocker for five seasons with the Patriots, until a neck injury ended his career. But it was one heck of a career that included a Pro Bowl selection, five rushing touchdowns, and 32 career receptions.

What stands out is out of those 32 receptions, 15 went for first downs. When New England needed to move the chains, the coaching staff called Develin’s number repeatedly, and he came through.

There shouldn’t be any doubt that Johnson could do for the Patriots what Develin did, and more. Especially knowing that Develin was a converted linebacker.

Next. Midseason review of Mac Jones. dark

Maybe head coach Bill Belichick doesn’t want to show his whole hand. Or maybe offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is saving a few trick plays for Johnson for just the right time.

What we shouldn’t doubt is that Johnson has a lot more to offer the New England Patriots, if they would only take advantage of his receiving skills.