After lacking the Patriots’ final two video games on account of a concussion, JuJu Smith-Schuster discovered himself again on the gridiron for Sunday’s street matchup towards the Miami Dolphins.
However for many of New England’s eventual 31-17 loss, New England’s high free-agent pickup was planted alongside the sidelines.
As soon as envisioned as an improve over Jakobi Meyers and a dynamic slot receiver able to prolonged performs after the catch, Smith-Schuster didn’t play a single snap by way of the primary three quarters of Sunday’s showdown at Laborious Rock Stadium.
By the point Smith-Schuster lastly earned the decision from New England’s coaches and joined Mac Jones and the Patriots’ offensive personnel, it was the fourth quarter — after each DeVante Parker and Kendrick Bourne have been dominated out on account of damage.
Smith-Schuster did benefit from his restricted reps, together with his lone goal from Jones leading to a three-yard landing for New England on its most full drive of the afternoon.
However even together with his first landing as a Patriot secured, Smith-Schuster’s restricted utilization on a New England offense in determined want of playmakers raises some questions — particularly when it comes to his general impression amid a disappointing 2023 season.
“I knew that it was a chance and form of simply waited for the sport to play out,” Smith-Schuster stated postgame of his restricted snaps, including: “It’s what the coaches, the choices they made with the gamers. It’s what it’s. I’ve been in conditions like this earlier than. Simply when the chance comes, benefit from it.”
Smith-Schuter’s restricted reps might be linked to rookie Demario Douglas’ rising position in New England’s offense. Nonetheless, the optics aren’t perfect when a veteran who simply inked a $33 million contract in March is shedding out on snaps to Jalen Reagor, who has spent many of the yr on the Patriots’ observe squad.
“We’ve performed a number of individuals,” Invoice Belichick stated of Smith-Schuster’s reps on Sunday. We performed a number of individuals. So whichever man performs much less, you ask why that man didn’t play extra. We will’t play all people.”
Getting into Sunday’s sport, Smith-Schuster reeled in 14 catches over 5 video games with New England, however for a complete of simply 86 yards. He may must step into a bigger position shifting ahead, particularly if each Parker and Bourne miss a while on account of their respective accidents.
Nonetheless, Smith-Schuster has but to shake issues over his dip in explosive performs and the long-term results of a lingering knee damage that plagued him final yr.
As New England tries to carve out a set position for Smith-Schuster and get him again in control, just a few rumored Patriots targets within the offseason have continued to capitalize in new environment.
A veteran wideout with big-play capabilities in DeAndre Hopkins would come in useful proper about now. The previous All-Professional wideout caught 4 balls for 128 yards and three touchdowns within the Titans’ win over the Falcons on Sunday.
In the meantime, Meyers is projected to complete his first season in Las Vegas with 90 catches, 935 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns.
Alongside together with his landing catch, Smith-Schuster made one other play within the closing minutes of Sunday’s sport that drew the ire of the Dolphins.
On a fourth-down throw, Jones uncorked a go that Dolphins defensive again Brandon Jones tried to corral. Smith-Schuster delivered a heavy hit towards Jones, breaking apart the potential interception for Miami.
Brandon Jones, whose head hit the turf laborious after Smith-Schuster’s hit, was surprised after the sequence, setting off a heated scrap between gamers on each rosters. The Dolphins defensive again was evaluated for a head damage.
“Simply noticed the defensive participant attempting to go for an interception and simply attempting to make a play,” Smith-Schuster stated of his hit. “Whereas he was coming down with the ball, I kinda simply hit him within the chest and tried to get the ball out. … “After all they appeared upset. I can see why. Nevertheless it was a clear hit.”
Smith-Schuster was assessed a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct after the play, seemingly for standing over Jones after doling out the hit.
Smith-Schuster disagreed with the sequence of occasions.
“I hit him and walked to the sideline,” the receiver famous.
Join Patriots updates🏈
Get breaking information and evaluation delivered to your inbox throughout soccer season.