One of the goals that the New England Patriots had this offseason was fixing the supporting cast around quarterback Mac Jones. From the coaching staff to the personnel on the field, New England will have new faces in numerous places.
Billy O’Brien is taking over as offensive coordinator after the disastrous Matt Patricia and Joe Judge offensive game plan in 2022. The biggest change on the field in terms of personnel will be at wide receiver.
The Patriots signed tight end Mike Gesicki and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster to bolster the weapons around Jones and to get the passing game on track. Smith-Schuster is the de facto No. 1 receiver, replacing Jakobi Meyers, who signed with the Las Vegas Raiders.
Smith-Schuster has been seeking a multi-year deal for multiple offseasons and was finally able to land one with the Patriots. He earned it after recording 78 receptions for 933 yards and three touchdowns with the Kansas City Chiefs last season.
While solid production, Smith-Schuster hasn’t quite been able to recapture the success he had early on in his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers. In his first two NFL seasons, the USC product caught 169 passes for 2,343 yards and 14 touchdowns
Producing at that clip would be excellent for the Patriots. However, there are some concerns about Smith-Schuster even making it through the season. According to Albert Breer of NBC Sports Boston, the knee issue that he is dealing with is worse than being let on.
“The underrated story here: JuJu Smith-Schuster’s knee is a mess, and that thing could explode at any point. So, you almost have to keep an extra receiver because of that,” Breer said.
That is certainly not what you want to hear about your prized free agent signing days before the regular season. Smith-Schuster is set to play a major role in the Patriots’ offense and not having him would be a huge blow.
While Breer is painting a bleak picture, Smith-Schuster is a lot more optimistic about his outlook. “I don’t think my knee is a ticking time bomb. If anything, it’s something that’s getting stronger every day,” he said.
Smith-Schuster has dealt with a number of injury ailments throughout his career. Alas, it is hard to believe Bill Belichick and the Patriots would hand out a three-year deal to a player with a knee in as bad a shape as Breer is reporting.