Jonnu Smith arrived in New England with a big contract and high expectations but was a total bust in his first season with the Patriots.
In 16 games, the athletic tight end caught just 28 passes for 294 yards and a touchdown while offering mediocre blocking. Smith regularly looked uncomfortable in the Patriots offense, and, when he did get opportunities, rarely made much of them.
So, what happened? Why was it such a struggle for a player with so much talent?
Obviously, there were a variety of factors, and only Smith and the Patriots know most of them. However, in a column published Sunday morning, Mike Reiss of ESPN offered some new insight.
“Some close to Smith wonder how much not taking part in the Patriots’ voluntary offseason program last year was a significant factor as to why (he struggled),” Reiss wrote. “While few scouts and coaches question his raw ability, they say he’s the type of player who needs refinement, which traces back to his college days and early years in Tennessee where he also experienced slow starts.”
Smith was a no-show at New England’s voluntary organized team activities (OTAs). He was present at the start of mandatory minicamp but suffered a hamstring injury early on and remained out until training camp. As a result, Smith and rookie quarterback Mac Jones missed out on valuable chemistry-building time.
The Patriots have to hope that this offseason will be a different story for Smith, and that he will enjoy a bounce-back campaign in 2022.