The 4 Patriots players with the most to prove before and during the 2023 season

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JuJu Smith-Schuster

Generally, a newly acquired player through free agency wouldn't necessarily have a lot to prove in their first season with a new team. But because Bill Belichick appeared to pass on re-signing Jakobi Meyers to sign JuJu Smith-Schuster, the receiver has to prove he was worth the risk and the investment this summer.

The connection between Mac Jones and Meyers was evident and felt by anyone who watched a Patriots game over the last two seasons. He even had a noticeable bond during the 2020 season with Cam Newton, who Meyers credits for saving his career.

He joined the team as an undrafted free agent who did not contribute much in his first season. However, with the help and belief from Newton, he quickly ascended to the top of the receiving corps and became Jones' most reliable and favorite target in every game.

Now that Smith-Schuster is set to fill his position on the offense, he has big shoes to fill in, replacing Meyers' production and proving he can be the WR1 the Patriots need.

There are several questions following the newest New England receiver before even stepping onto the field, most of which surround his fit on the team.

Can he form the same or similar connection with Jones that translates onto the field?

Will he quickly pick up Bill O'Brien's offense and immediately contribute?

Was his performance with the Chiefs a result of catching passes from a talent like Patrick Mahomes? Or even his time spent in Pittsburgh with Ben Roethlisberger? Or can he be productive with any level quarterback?

He will have a lot of work catching up to where his fellow receivers are and gaining continuity and trust with Jones. The pair could utilize their desire to solidify their roles on the team this season as a motivating factor to get on the same page quicker than anticipated, creating an even smoother transition in the regular season.

Fortunately for Smith-Schuster, his quarterback has already raved about their limited offseason work together so far, providing more optimism that he can be a possible upgrade to Meyers. He brings a dynamic and explosiveness the team is currently lacking, which makes the choice ultimately up to him to prove the doubters wrong and make an immediate impact, especially to those still upset over Meyers departing for the Raiders.