The New England Patriots made a splash last offseason when they signed Jonnu Smith to a lucrative contract at the outset of free agency.
But once in New England, the 6-foot-3, 248-pound tight end only made a ripple in the water in terms of his impact.
Despite Smith’s shortcomings from a season ago, he figures to still play a sizeable role in the Patriots offense, and ESPN’s Ben Linsey singled out Smith as the team’s X-factor going into the 2022 season.
If Smith can return to the form that made him a coveted free agent, it could give New England’s offensive attack the jolt it needs to become one of the upper-echelon units in the NFL. Smith’s superb athleticism could make him a weapon in the passing game, but according to Linsey, he ran only 158 passing routes last season, which ranked 52nd among tight ends.
Getting more out of Smith, who caught only 28 passes for 294 yards and one touchdown, in that department is critical for the Patriots. A full offseason to get comfortable with the offensive system could prove beneficial for Smith as he looks to become more of a threat. Smith elevating into more of a factor would only aid in the development of second-year quarterback Mac Jones as well.
But if Smith isn’t able to make a leap in his play in his second season in New England, the Patriots might find it hard to sustain offense, which plagued them at times last year. And for a Patriots offense that doesn’t possess top-notch playmakers, there isn’t much room for error.
So, there will be a lot hinging on what Smith can produce in an offense that needs him to live up to his contract.