It’s only Week 2, but the Patriots’ biggest free agent signing of the offseason is already looking like a massive mistake.
After watching JuJu Smith-Schuster help the Kansas City Chiefs win the Super Bowl last February, New England handed him a three-year, $25.5 million contract ($16 million guaranteed). When the team failed to sign DeAndre Hopkins, Smith-Schuster became the team’s No. 1 receiver by default.
Well, he certainly didn’t play like one in Week 1, managing just 4 catches on 7 targets for 33 yards and no touchdowns. More concerningly, Bill Belichick didn’t seem to trust him in big moments, using him in just 54% of offensive snaps and leaving him off the field altogether during the team’s final drive.
JuJu Smith-Schuster Already Major Bust?
New England rotated its receivers in Week 1, which explains the low snap count, but wouldn’t you want your best players on the field with the game on the line?
There could be a few reasons for Smith-Schuster’s underwhelming Week 1. Perhaps he’s still learning Bill O’Brien’s offense. Maybe his knee injury is hampering him more than he’s letting on. Or maybe, just maybe, he’s not really that good in the first place and the Patriots made a huge error by signing him, which some of the coaching staff already seems to believe.
It’s not like New England’s receiver room is teeming with talent, either. If you can’t prove you’re better than rookies like Kayshon Boutte and Demario Douglas, then that’s definitely alarming.
It’s also possible Smith-Schuster figured he had the WR1 role locked up and didn’t try as hard, so the Patriots are trying to give him a kick in the butt by humbling him a bit. Nobody’s job is guaranteed on a Belichick team, and Smith-Schuster isn’t going to automatically get playing time just because he’s a bigger name with a more established track record. He’s going to have to earn his snaps, just like everyone else.
Hopefully this motivates Smith-Schuster to step up in Week 2 and play better against the Miami Dolphins. The Pats are going to need more from him if they want to beat their division rivals in primetime on Sunday Night Football. If he doesn’t show up, though, New England’s buyer’s remorse will only intensify.
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