Jonnu Smith certainly was not the only problem on the New England Patriots offense last season, but the high-priced tight end did leave a lot to be desired during his first campaign in Foxboro.
Smith, as many Patriots fans will remember, frequently was no where to be found for the Mac Jones-led offense as he finished the season with a mere 28 receptions for 294 yards and one touchdown. At times it looked like Smith fell out of favor with then-offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, leading to the low level of production despite his skillset when the ball is in his hands.
Well, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick seems optimistic a bounce-back season is coming for Smith.
“Jonnu’s had a really good offseason,” Belichick told reporters Sunday, per a team-provided transcript. “Starting in the spring, he’s in real good condition, fundamentals, and techniques are good. He’s a hard-working kid. He’s out there every day, smart player. So he’s off to a real good start, and we’ll see how things go in the regular season. But he’s put himself in position to, I think, go out and play well.”
Smith’s strong preseason resulted in an improved connection with Jones, as he caught the second-most passes from the second-year quarterback, per the Providence Journal’s Mark Daniels. Many theorized how the Patriots’ new offensive scheme might have aided in Smith’s and others’ ability to play faster. It also should allow for more Smith and Hunter Henry combinations given the Patriots have parted ways with the traditional fullback role.
The fact he was one of Jones’ favorite targets throughout training camp bodes well for his potential in the passing game, where he’ll look to set new career highs in catches (41), yards (448) and receiving touchdowns (eight). Although it’s probably not the best idea to bet Smith 150-to-1 to lead the league in touchdown receptions or 250-to-1 to lead the NFL in receptions, as shared on DraftKings Sportsbook.
Smith and the Patriots will open up their 2022 regular season with a Week 1 clash against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. New England currently is a three-point road underdog entering the contest.