JuJu Smith-Schuster was absent from voluntary OTA’s, but the New England Patriots wide receiver still was a topic of discussion this past week, primarily from his new quarterback Mac Jones.
Signing with the Patriots as a free agent in the offseason, Smith-Schuster is slotted as the team’s top receiver with the departure of Jakobi Meyers. While there is still potential DeAndre Hopkins could ultimately land that role, Smith-Schuster should at the very least be a favorite of Mac Jones for a couple reasons.
First, Smith-Schuster can break big plays after the catch, something Meyers wasn’t known for. Secondly, the two already have chemistry off the field as Jones admitted that the two bonded right after Smith-Schuster signed during free agency.
"“I think JuJu’s done a great job, also from a leadership standpoint,” Jones said following OTA’s on Wednesday. “Coming in, that’s someone who adds veteran leadership from different places. He just came off of a Super Bowl team, so what a great value to our offense. Obviously, when he gets on the field, that’s going to be great because he has the experience, and he loves talking about football.”"
Patriots could have something special with Mac Jones and JuJu Smith-Schuster
Although Smith-Schuster hasn’t been as productive as his days with the Pittsburgh Steelers, he is still on the young side of 30 and showed last season with theKansas City Chiefs that he can still be an effective and reliable target offensively.
Last season with the Super Bowl champs, the new Patriots veteran receiver hauled in 78 receptions for 933 yards and 3 touchdowns. That was coming off a 2021 season with the Steelers in which he spent most the season on injured reserve.
With that production, most see him as an upgrade over Meyers. How he hits if off on the field with Mac Jones will be the only determinant of that, but at least the two have found a common bond which is the fact that they are both football nerds.
"“He’s just a football nerd, I guess, kind of like me,” Jones continued. “We kind of hit it off in that regard. He’s an awesome guy, and I’m looking forward to working with all those guys in the room. I think there’s a lot of potential there.”"
Patriots offense could surprise some folks
Even if the Patriots don’t add Hopkins to the mix, Jones will have some solid weapons around him. It starts with Smith-Schuster, but the team also has Kendrick Bourne who Bill O’Brien should be able to work back into the mix.
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Along with Bourne, 2022 second-round pick Tyquan Thornton is expected to make a leap. DeVante Parker should be better in his second season with the Patriots and the team has two solid tight ends in Hunter Henry and Mike Gesiki. There is also a fascinating six-round pick in Kayshon Boutte who has been crushing it so far in OTAs.
In all, the New England Patriots offense should offer elements of excitement. But it begins with the chemistry between Mac Jones and Smith-Schuster. If those two bond on the field and form a reliable connection, the Patriots offense will be that much better.