DeAndre Hopkins isn’t walking through that door, and neither is Jakobi Meyers. But don’t worry New England Patriots fans, JuJu Smith-Schuster is destined to be a favorite target of Mac Jones. That is, if he stays healthy.
Coming off a season in which he nearly reached 1,000 yards receiving with the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, Smith-Schuster is a playmaker Bill O’Brien’s offense will depend on to move the chains.
He is also a player Jones will quickly learn to depend on. But will Smith-Schuster be the Pittsburgh Steelers version of himself, or will a lingering injury slow him down? That is the one hold back in the excitement over a playmaker who has the skills to flourish in Foxborough. It will also depend on his buy in.
JuJu Smith-Schuster slotted as Patriots top weapon?
After signing a three-year, $33 million contract this offseason, Smith-Schuster better buy in. One sign of that is his budding love affair with the fans thus far in training camp. With Patriots fans chanting “JUJU!,” when he entered the field, the Mac Jones’ new weapon is feeling the love.
"“It’s been great,” Smith-Schuster said following Thursday’s practice. “The fan base is amazing. Getting them hyped, even them coming out here, so much love. But I would say this, just being out here with the guys, working, putting in the hard work and putting it all together is super exciting.”"
With Bill Belichick also clamoring over his work ethic as well as his football IQ, Smith-Schuster will have a lot of pressure on him to be a primary contributor in the Patriots’ offense in 2023. If he doesn’t produce, that “JUJU” love will quickly evaporate in Foxborough and so will the trust in whatever type of team Belichick is trying to build.
Patriots Rumors: Dalvin Cook to New England still a possibility
As the New England Patriots air attack will depend on Smith-Schuster and other playmakers like Hunter Henry, DeVante Parker, Tyquan Thornton, Kendrick Bourne and Mike Gesicki, the ground game can still get a major boost by adding another player alongside Rhamondre Stevenson.
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Is there a real change Belichick and the Patriots will add 4-time Pro-Bowl running back Dalvin Cook to the mix?
With Cook slotted to visit the New York Jets this week, it appears the Patriots are preparing to be the next location for Cook’s free agency tour.
Will that drive the Jets to sign him or will Cook use the AFC East rivals as a negotiation tactic to drive up the price. If that ends up being the case, Patriots Nation could probably give up on the thought of the team spending major money on another running back, especially with a decision on Stevenson looming soon.
But, again, you can also never count Belichick out. Back when the team had a young, talented running back in Laurence Maroney, the Patriots did go out and get Corey Dillon who helped them win a Super Bowl.
Could Belichick have a similar vision with a possible Stevenson-Cook two headed monster to lead the offense in 2023? If he does, then the money will have to talk, especially with the Jets and Miami Dolphins also on Cook’s radar.