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#PostPulpit Mailbag: Does New England have a JuJu Smith-Schuster problem?

This week’s Patriots mailbag answers questions about JuJu Smith-Schuster vs. Demario Douglas, Christian Gonzalez, and more.

New England Patriots (15) Vs. New York Jets (10) At MetLife Stadium Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The New England Patriots are set to travel to Dallas for a Week 4 matchup against the Cowboys this week.

Before they look to get back to .500, let’s jump into this week’s #PostPulpit mailbag.

@jackbond04 When is enough enough with juju? Any thoughts on Demario jumping him for the slot position?

It’s been a rough start for Smith-Schuster’s Patriots career, as he’s caught just 10 passes for 66 yards in three games. While JuJu does not look like the explosive player who we’d thought would be a YAC upgrade, he did look a tad more comfortable running some vertical routes on Sunday.

The issue, however, was that him and his quarterback did not always appear to be on the same page leading to a few incompletions.

As Smith-Schuster has not been great in Bill O’Brien’s slot role, my hope would be that they turn the job over to Douglas. The rookie fits the exact mold of a jitterbug receiver with stop-start ability that O’Brien likes in the slot.

Plus, as New England is facing a heavy amount of man coverage on third-down as teams are daring their pass catchers to win, they need a man beater on third-down to move the chains. Douglas gives them the best option there, in my opinion.

Perhaps some more Ty Montgomery as a receiving back could help in those situations too.

@BostonEvan11 Is Tyquan around and gonna play when healthy?

Yes, Tyquan has been around the facility as he continues his rehab. He will be eligible to be activated following this week and appears to be close to return. As for his role when he returns, there's a path for him getting on the field as New England’s offense needs someone who can stretch the field.

The Patriots offense has been bad through three weeks throwing the ball downfield, so the hope would be that Tyquan’s speed can provide a more consistent threat to open things up. However with Thornton, it always comes back to availability.

How good has Christian Gonzalez really been? Deserving of the hype? - David

We won't fit Christian Gonzalez for his gold jacket after three games (maybe his red?), but he looks like everything he was projected to be coming out of college.

Many thought Gonzalez was the top cornerback coming out of the draft due to his combination of elite coverage skills and athletic ability at 6-foot-1. Those traits have shown in matchups against receivers like Tyreek Hill and Garrett Wilson, such as his change of direction ability when he matched Wilson on a whip route down near the goal line last weekend.

Beyond his high-end athletic and coverage traits, another reason Gonzalez has been a match made in heaven for the Patriots is because of his fit in Belichick’s man-heavy system. We’ve seen how well this defense operates with a true No. 1 cornerback, but Gonzalez has also been excellent at playing within the scheme and using his leverage to his advantage.

It was evident multiple times against Tyreek Hill in Week 2 and in the clip above as he knows he can sit on the route with Jabrill Peppers in the middle of the field. Gonzalez’s pass breakup against New York was another great example as he plays with outside leverage knowing Kyle Dugger is taking away the middle of the field.

It’s been an ideal start for Gonzalez that has earned him recognition from the league (NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Month) and praise from players and coaches such as Tyreek Hill. Now, another tough test awaits in Ceedee Lamb.

@MSax8_ How much better can this defense be with Jonathan Jones, Jack Jones and Marcus Jones all back?

Beyond Gonzalez, the three Joneses are New England’s three best corners. They’ll obviously be better with them back in the fold, especially as they’ll be able to go back to mixing and matching their personnel based on the opponent.

While Myles Bryant has played really good football to start the season, getting Jonathan Jones back in the fold will be big for New England’s secondary. They would then be able to move Bryant back inside with Gonzalez manning the boundary and Jones serving as the field cornerback — or shadow specific receivers again based on matchup.

The veteran Jones should be nearing a return, while the younger duo will likely not be in the equation for at least another month.

@BrianCo84 You think the Patriots make a trade with Denver or Tampa for a wr?

@bostonfan1115 You think we are making any big wr/ol trades at the deadline of before?

Well, based on the sweatshirts passed around the Patriots locker room on Wednesday, “No one is coming.” But, if one of these top wide receivers becomes available in the regular season, I would absolutely try to make a move to get one. Specifically if the Las Vegas Raiders fall apart, New England should be on the phone with Dave Ziegler and Josh McDaniels about Davante Adams.

The most realistic possibility seems to be Jerry Jeudy, with the Denver Broncos off to an 0-3 start of the year and Jeudy only have his fifth-year option for 2024 remaining on his contract.

I wouldn't put any money on any of it happening, however.

That’s all for this week’s #PostPulpit mailbag. If you have questions you’d liked to be answered next week, submit them on Twitter using #PostPulpit. Make sure to be following @iambrianhines and @PatsPulpit as well.