Does JuJu Make the Patriots Better?
This past week it was announced that the New England Patriots are signing former Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster to a three-year, $33 million deal. After recording 78 catches for 933 yards and three touchdowns last season, the 26 year old finds a place that is a little more permanent after signing back-to-back one year deals the past two seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Chiefs.
Instantly, the Patriots fill the hole that was left by former receiver Jakobi Meyers after he agreed to a similar deal with the Las Vegas Raiders this past week as well. Despite this, there are few main questions regarding Juju's fit in New England:
Can Smith-Schuster's personality fit into "The Patriot Way?"
Juju is well known for his big personality on and off the field. From streaming video games on Twitch to making Tik Tok dances on opposing team's logos in the center of the field, Smith-Schuster is not one to shy away from attention. While this is all fine and good, one has to imagine how head coach Bill Belichick will feel about all of this. It does't take a huge Pats fan to know that Belichick runs a pretty tight ship and is not a huge fan of "look at me" type of personalities. It is hard to picture Bill being okay with Juju poking fun at another player on Twitter like he did with Philadelphia Eagles cornerback James Bradberry on Valentine's Day after the Super Bowl (see below). There could easily be a few instances where the newly acquired wideout does a publicity stunt that rubs the head coach the wrong way and one has to imagine how that will impact the overall dynamic of the team.
2. Can Juju bring the same high-level football IQ that Meyers left with?
Juju Smith-Schuster is a smart football player and I am by no means calling him unintelligent on the field. With that being said though, Jakobi Meyers was the kind of dependable, high-IQ player that teams love. Being recruited to NC State as a quarterback to start his college career, he transitioned to wide receiver following his freshman year in which he redshirted. This switch proved to be a great one as he had a successful college tenure for the Wolfpack. Being a quarterback early on however, helped Meyers read the field like a QB and find open spots in the defense in his routes. Belichick loves guys like this as Julian Edelman also had a similar situation to Meyers and we all know how he turned out. Players that understand the little nuances of the game are immensely valuable and Meyers was a player that excelled in that area. Juju has the tools to be like this as well, but it has to be questioned if he can be relied on as much as Meyers was. How good he will be at finding the soft spots in a defense consistently remains to be seen.
3. Can he be the true WR1 that the Patriots desperatley need?
The New England Patriots have not had a good offense, much less a truly great one since Tom Brady departed from the team. Shaky play from all aspects on the offensive side of the ball has them eagerly looking for a playmaker that can be relied on game in and game out. It is a fair question to ask if Juju can be that guy that defenses focus on every Sunday. He started his career out in Pittsburgh, alongside Antonio Brown who was arguably at the peak of his powers. He was able to have a very successful couple of years without worrying that defenses will completely build their schemes around shutting him down. When Brown left the Steelers, Juju was now the main target and his numbers were not the same and went down in most receiving categories. He then had the opportunity to play with Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce with offensive mastermind Andy Reid calling the plays. He again was put into a great situation, knowing that defenses would try to mainly contain Kelce and trusted that Reid's play- calling would put him in the right spots to succeed. The Patriots do not have guys like Brown or Kelce and do not have genius offensive coaches like Andy Reid. They are looking for someone to transform their offense and I am personally not sure if Juju is the guy to do that. He has the skills to do so certainly, but when have we really seen him have tremendous success with all the offensive success on his shoulders?
While the Patriots did what fans wanted them to do and brought in a talented receiver this offseason, this move was a little unexpected. This fit may be a little wonkier than Pats Faithful would have liked. While I hope that Juju is our main guy and has a prospering tenure here, I am hesitant to call this a "great move."
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- W. Monast