Some news and notes for this morning:
Smith-Schuster Falling Out of Favor?
Back in March when the New England Patriots signed wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, the hope would be that he would be an upgrade over Jakobi Meyers, who departed to Las Vegas in free agency.
After Week 1, it appears there may be some doubt there. Including from inside the organization.
According to The Boston Herald’s Andrew Callahan, Smith-Schuster’s status seems to be in question when it comes to how effective they believe he is. Callahan reports that the veteran “is not presently among the team’s five most effective pass-catchers,” citing multiple team sources.
That’s apparent, given that the veteran wide receiver was on the sidelines during the team’s final drive against Philadelphia. When the Patriots needed a play down the stretch, the player who received $25.5 million this offseason wasn’t among the guys on the field trying to win the football game.
Whether that’s due to health is obviously another question, which Bill Belichick side-stepped on Wednesday. What was interesting there was the fact that the conversation started with a question about his conditioning level and whether or not he was healthy enough to finish Sunday’s contest.
“Well, we’ll get the injury report today,” said Belichick. Which was an odd response, because, watching it back, the question sort of centered around whether or not Smith-Schuster’s conditioning level was the bigger factor on Sunday, not about anything else.
Instead, Belichick intimated that maybe it’s a health issue, which, given a lot of the speculation leading up to the season, certainly now potentially holds a little more weight.
Still, Smith-Schuster’s name didn’t appear on the injury report on Wednesday, and he was apparently a full participant. As a result, that will now potentially shift things where it may be time to wonder if it’s possible that coming off that injury, whether he’s simply lost some of that quickness and explosiveness that led New England to bring him here, to begin with.
For now, it remains something to monitor. But for an offense that was expected him to produce big numbers for them this season, it’s certainly not great news.
Offensive Line Took Major Hits Sunday
Looking at Wednesday’s injury report, the Patriots offensive line ended up with a physical battle with Philadelphia that apparently took its toll.
Trent Brown and Sidy Sow both missed Wednesday’s session with a concussion, while David Andrews (Hamstring) was a limited participant. That potentially knocks out two key pieces of New England’s offensive line heading into Sunday’s game if either player is unable to play.
Cole Strange was a limited participant on Wednesday, and he had seemed fairly upbeat ahead of last week’s contest before ending up on the inactive list. In his absence, rookie Atonio Mafi started and played 100% of the snaps against Philadelphia. Also limited again was Mike Onwenu (ankle), who some thought may have played on Sunday but also ultimately ended up inactive.
Belichick sounded relatively optimistic on both Strange and Onwenu on Wednesday.
“I think they’ll eventually play,” said Belichick of both players. “We’ll see when that is, just take it day by day. The last time they practiced was Friday. So, it’s five days later, we’ll see what kind of progress they’ve made and go from there.”
Meanwhile, tackle is the biggest question mark. Calvin Anderson anchored the right side of the line while also finishing the contest and playing 100% of his snaps, which was impressive given that he didn’t see any action in preseason having just recently come off the NFI list ahead of last Sunday’s game.
Brown played 100% of Sunday’s snaps on the left side and held up well against a tough Eagles defense.
According to Mark Daniels of MassLive.com, the Patriots took a look at offensive tackle La’el Collins, who was released by the Cincinnati Bengals on Tuesday. That move was reportedly the team simply doing some due diligence, with the club likely exploring their options as a contingency plan if Brown misses any significant time.
The tackle position has been an issue all summer. The Patriots tried to address it further near the end of camp, making two moves where they acquired both Tyrone Wheatley Jr. and Vederian Lowe via separate trades to try and bolster their depth.
While neither has seen action (Wheatley Jr. had two special teams snaps Sunday, Lowe was active but did not play), it certainly feels like that may change this weekend, especially if Brown ultimately ends up sidelined.
Jones Focused on Moving On
Patriots quarterback Mac Jones had a tough start before bringing his team back against the Eagles on Sunday in what turned out to be a pretty impressive showing.
After Jones couldn’t quite get his team over that final hurdle to pull out the win, he was tough on himself after the game, putting the loss squarely on his own shoulders.
With the Dolphins now in his sights, Jones emphasized how important it was to use a rule that has helped make it easier to put games like that behind him.
“I think the biggest thing for me is the 24-hour rule, win or lose, just enjoy the win if you win and then learn from the loss if you lose,” said Jones on Wednesday. “Just trying to get better at those things, apply those things this week in practice.”
He finished Sunday’s contest against the Eagles completing 35-of-54 for 316 yards along with 3 touchdowns and 1 interception, which came on an off-target throw to Kendrick Bourne that ended up in the hands of Darius Slay, who took it back the length of the field the other way for a touchdown.
But after a rough first quarter, he settled down. He completed 14-of-17 (82.4%) for 128 yards and two touchdowns in the second quarter, which got New England back into the game.
It’s just one week and there’s still plenty of football left. But Jones appears dialed-in and he’s looking forward to his next opportunity to hopefully get his team into the win column this weekend.
“I think you get so many opportunities during the year to do that, and this is the next opportunity,” said Jones. “I definitely want to have a good week of practice, control the controllables and go out there on Sunday, feel prepared, and let it rip.”
Odds and Ends
Jones was asked about new teammate Ian Book, who the club added earlier this week as the situation with Matt Corral continues to play out. “Yeah, I think Ian and I played against each other in college,” said Jones. “He’s a great quarterback, and we’re excited to have him in the room.” … Kayshon Boutte was listed as “limited” on Wednesday’s injury report with a hamstring injury, putting his status in question ahead of Sunday. … On the other side in Miami, Jalen Waddle was listed as “limited” with an oblique injury. He caught four passes for 78 yards during Dolphins’ win over the Chargers Sunday. … Belichick was asked about Christian Barmore, with Belichick saying he’s improve while noting how important availability has been for him. “He’s gotten better, like most players do when they practice every day, they’re out there every day and they work hard. Then, they improve,” said Belichick. “When they’re not able to be out there and miss time, it’s harder to perfect your skills and improve. You do what you can do, but it’s a lot easier to improve as a player when you’re on the field practicing and playing.” Barmore made a key tackle on Sunday, stopping Jalen Hurts short during a scramble on a 3rd-and-6 after he picked up 4 yards, which forced the Eagles to punt and gave the Patriots one final shot to try and finish the comeback before they fell short.
Posted Under: Patriots News