With that in mind, the Patriots will likely need their new tight end duo, Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, to step up big time for incumbent starting quarterback Cam Newton, who could really only rely on Jakobi Meyers and (at times) James White as receivers last year.
Unfortunately for New England, however, their two high-priced free agent acquisitions haven’t gotten off to a great start thus far.
Last week during OTAs, Henry went down with a worrisome-looking leg injury that ended up just being a scare.
Flash forward to the start of mandatory minicamp on Monday, and Smith suffered an apparent hamstring injury.
It remains to be seen how serious his issue is for the former Titans star, but he didn’t participate in Tuesday’s practice.
Should Patriots fans be concerned about Jonnu Smith’s rough start?
While Smith suffering an injury in his first offseason practice isn’t encouraging, the fact he wasn’t sent for further testing suggests the injury isn’t serious.
Throw in that New England didn’t rule him out entirely from Tuesday’s practice — hamstring injuries, even minor ones, generally require at least a few days off before teams even think about clearing players for return — and we’re probably talking about nothing more than a small tweak.
Still, for somebody who’s learning a new playbook and looking to develop chemistry with a new quarterback, Smith needs every possible second on the practice field leading up to the regular season. This would be a different story if the Patriots weren’t going to rely heavily on Smith to produce in the passing game, but that obviously isn’t the case.
Want another reason to be a little concerned, Patriots fans? At Monday’s practice, Smith reportedly had a pair of bad drops before sitting out the second half.
It’s unclear whether those miscues happened after he tweaked his hammy, but injured or not, if the quarterback hits your hands with a pass, you should probably catch it…especially at this level.
Perhaps we’re overreacting given how much of a burden Smith will carry as a receiver this upcoming season, but this certainly isn’t an ideal start for a player who’s fresh off signing a four-year, $50 million contract despite not registering a year with more than 41 receptions and 450 receiving yards over his four seasons in Tennessee.
At any rate, let’s hope Smith is able to return to the practice field over the next few days and reminds everyone in Foxborough why the Patriots made him the third highest-paid tight end (in terms of annual average value) in the league this offseason.