When discussing the upcoming season for the Patriots, there are plenty of aspects worth mentioning. Over the last several weeks, the offense has been the hottest topic and several players are beginning to be mentioned as well.
The excitement for the future of the Patriots was real during the 2021 free agency spending spree. It was nearly unbelievable that Bill Belichick was able to sign so many great talents, including the top tight ends available in Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith.
The chemistry appeared nearly instant between Mac Jones and Henry throughout the season, with Henry ending the year with his best career performance. But the same could not be said regarding Smith who had a surprisingly quiet season.
What happened during Smith’s first season with the Patriots?
Smith joined the Patriots after completing the most highlight-worthy seasons in his career with the Titans. He would sign a massive contract with New England, a four-year, $50 million deal, making him one of the highest paid at his position in the league.
Shortly after his signing, Henry would join the team as well, leaving many hoping to revive the double tight end plays once again.
Those plays are yet to be seen, as they were not truly implemented (only 18.6% of their offensive snaps) during the season. Henry would take over as TE1 fairly quickly, with Smith struggling to create his identity on the team early on.
He would be used in a variety of alignments during the year, including coming out of the backfield and his versatility certainly shined. His superior blocking became a huge part of his play and continued to be the focus of his on-field appearances.
As Henry’s involvement grew, Smith would see less and less time with the offense. Over the last four weeks of the season, he would total only 4 receptions for 23 yards, ending a high expectation year in the opposite direction.
Jonnu Smith’s stats for the 2021 season
- Played in 16 games
- 28/45 receptions (with 4 drops) for 294 yards
- 1 touchdown
- 9 rushes for 40 yards
What is the 2022 season looking like for Smith?
Through not only his words but also his actions, Smith has made it clear he is doing all that he can and more to have a much improved second year in New England.
The offseason began much differently for him, as he spent the months remaining in New England. He also participated in OTA’s in the spring, getting the extra work in as much as possible.
Since the start of training camp, it’s apparent that Smith will be utilized far more this season than last. His comfort level within the system and the offense is obvious and his performance continues to stand out throughout the weeks.
The versatility he possesses has shown to be an asset in practice, as he consistently is used not just as a blocker and pass catcher, but also giving Jones the run-pass option choice too. Those plays were not a substantial part of the playbook last year, but with McDaniels gone and the plays showing up in practice so far, it’s looking like that is changing.
Throughout several weeks of training camp, Smith is becoming a favorite target of Jones, nearly leading the rest of the receivers on the roster.
The work he has put in over the last several months is starting to show as camp continues. With Henry sidelined due to injury and limited tight ends on the roster currently, Smith has a tremendous opportunity to demonstrate all that he can do and will do for the team this year.
It’s unlikely he will jump over Henry on the depth chart, but he has all the tools and capabilities to get back to the production he had during his last two seasons in Tennessee.