JuJu Smith-Schuster has had a relatively quiet start into his first season with the New England Patriots. The high-profile free agency acquisition has caught just 10 passes for 66 yards in his three games with the team, ranking 68th and 129th in the NFL in those two categories so far this year.
The lack of production is not due to a lack of opportunity. Smith-Schuster has been on the field for 140 offensive snaps, second among New England’s wide receivers behind only Kendrick Bourne’s 151.
Despite the numbers not necessarily working in his favor, though, the Patriots continue to express confidence in Smith-Schuster.
“JuJu is great,” said quarterback Mac Jones on Monday. “Definitely want to give him the ball more, and we’ve worked really hard in practice. It’ll happen.”
Bill Belichick sang a similar tune.
“He’s been great,” the Patriots’ head coach said. “I love working with him. Tough kid, really smart. Does a good job for us. He does a lot of things well.”
Smith-Schuster arrived in New England this offseason via a three-year, $25.5 million free agency pact. Essentially brought in to replace Jakobi Meyers, who signed with the Las Vegas Raiders for $33 million over three years, he spent the offseason rehabbing a knee injury suffered the previous season.
As a consequence, Smith-Schuster was unavailable for organized team activities and mandatory minicamp which put him behind schedule in developing a chemistry with quarterback Mac Jones. For wide receivers coach Troy Brown, they still have room for growth.
“JuJu wasn’t here for the spring and so we had some catching up to do. He and Mac, they’re still growing just like Mac with the rest of our team,” Brown said on Tuesday. “Any team I’ve been a part of, that chemistry always got better no matter who’s quarterback or who’s playing as long as you are out there together. You just got better as the season went along.”
The hope for New England is that Smith-Schuster and Jones will get on the same page eventually, leading to more targets for the veteran wideout. In the meantime, though, it remains a work in progress.
Nonetheless, the Patriots sound pleased with what he brought to the table thus far.
“He’s been fine,” said Brown. “He’s done everything we asked him to do. That’s where we are on JuJu. He’s going out there, he’s competing. He’s trying. He’s trying to get blocks, trying to get open, trying to catch the ball — all the things we ask him to do.”