3 New England Patriots players to watch for vs. the Indianapolis Colts

Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)
Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images) /
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New England Patriots
New England Patriots tight end Jonnu Smith (81) Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports /

New England Patriots player to watch for No. 3: Jonnu Smith

It’s safe to say Jonnu Smith‘s first season with the New England Patriots hasn’t exactly gone as expected. Smith has struggled to fit into the offense for the most part (26 REC, 271 YDS, 1 TD), and has generally taken the back seat to fellow tight end Hunter Henry for long stretches of the season. Despite that, it wouldn’t surprise me if Smith has his first big game with the Patriots against the Colts.

Indy is one of the worst teams in the league when it comes to defending tight ends this season, which plays right into New England’s hand. They have allowed 83 catches, 874 yards, and six touchdowns to tight ends this season. For reference, Kansas City Chiefs star tight end Travis Kelce has posted an eerily similar statline this season (73 catches, 875 yards, five touchdowns). So essentially, the Colts are allowing opposing tight ends to perform like Kelce on a weekly basis.

It could finally be time for the Patriots to pull out their double tight end sets that they envisioned they would be running when they signed Smith and Henry this offseason. The Colts have a good defense, but their secondary is lacking, especially when it comes to covering tight ends. There are going to be holes for both Smith and Henry to exploit, and here’s betting that Smith is the one who keeps getting open.

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The Colts have a couple of options to guard these tight ends, starting with star linebacker Darius Leonard and safety Andrew Sendejo. Zaire Franklin has also been used in obvious passing downs this season, and he’s generally been one of the Colts better cover guys, but he just got put on the COVID list, and there’s a good shot he doesn’t suit up for this one.

Henry will get more attention than Smith because of his production this season, but even he will have matchups to exploit here. The Colts aren’t going to leave either Leonard or Sendejo on Henry all game long, simply because they can’t afford to. That means Smith will probably be getting the the second-best guy covering him most of the time, and even though he hasn’t been productive so far this season, it’s reasonable to expect he will find some space to get open in this one.

If Smith can win his one-on-one matchups and find some soft spaces when the Colts run zone coverages, he will be in line for a big day. The coaches have made an effort to get Smith the ball in a variety of ways recently, such as designed screens or handoffs, but they may not even have to try that hard this time around. Smith is going to have some favorable matchups in this one, and if he can step up and deliver, New England will have a good shot to come out of this one with a win.