3 players who could be nice surprises for Patriots in 2024

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JuJu Smith-Schuster

Unlike previous seasons, the Patriots have an overflowing roster of wide receivers heading into the summer. This is a good problem for a team needing to improve its offense, and they might have more luck with who they have than expected.

The assumption is that guys like Kendrick Bourne and DeMario Douglas will lead the way this season, as they did last year, with rookies Javon Baker and Ja'Lynn Polk not far behind. That leaves the rest of the roster hoping to make enough impact during training camp and the preseason to secure a spot on the team.

Besides K.J. Osborn likely making the cut due to his special teams experience, JuJu Smith-Schuster might have an edge over the others and be surprisingly good for the Patriots in his second season with the team.

To say last year's production from the receiver was a disappointment would be quite an understatement, but a lot of it can be chalked up to a horrific offense overall and Smith-Schuster dealing with a nagging knee injury that we only recently learned was more severe than previously reported.

With better pieces around him on offense and a healed knee, he could be on pace to have a season reminiscent of his lone year with the Chiefs. During that Super Bowl-winning season in 2022, Smith-Schuster recorded 78 receptions for 933 yards and three touchdowns. It was his most productive and best statistical season since 2018 when he made the Pro Bowl as a member of the Steelers.

Although the stats might not overly impress too many people, Smith-Schuster accomplished that with the Chiefs playing behind Travis Kelce, who has become Patrick Mahomes' number on target and sharing catches with Marquez Valdes-Scantling.

If he accomplished that by dealing with knee issues throughout the year, even if it was catching passes from Mahomes, Smith-Schuster could be on the path to a significant jump in production this upcoming season. His veteran experience could play a big role in that especially for Jacoby Brissett or Drake Maye.

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