FOXBORO, Mass. — Mac Jones lost his favorite target when the New England Patriots let Jakobi Meyers walk in free agency. Time will tell whether Meyers’ replacement, JuJu Smith-Schuster, will be able to replicate that connection.
The relationship between Jones and his potential new No. 1 wideout is off to a promising start, however, according to the Patriots quarterback.
Jones said he and Smith-Schuster have bonded over their love of football since the latter signed with New England in March.
“I think JuJu’s done a great job, also from a leadership standpoint,” Jones said after Wednesday’s organized team activities practice outside Gillette Stadium. “Coming in, that’s someone who adds veteran leadership from different places. He just came off of a Super Bowl team, so what a great value to our offense. Obviously, when he gets on the field, that’s going to be great because he has the experience and he loves talking about football.
“He’s just a football nerd, I guess, kind of like me. We kind of hit it off in that regard. He’s an awesome guy, and I’m looking forward to working with all those guys in that room. I think there’s a lot of potential there.”
Developing a friendship with a new teammate is one thing. Forging an on-field mental bond like the one Jones and Meyers shared is another, and he and Smith-Schuster weren’t able to work toward that on Wednesday. Smith-Schuster was among the dozen players who did not attend the team’s latest practice, which, like all OTAs, was voluntary. The reason for his absence was unclear.
Smith-Schuster also said he did not link up with Jones for any informal throwing sessions before he arrived in Foxboro for the Patriots’ offseason program last month, so the two haven’t had much time to develop the chemistry that’ll be necessary for both to succeed in New England’s offense this season. The veteran wideout did appear in a team-released photo from one of last week’s OTAs, however, confirming he took part in at least one of the team’s first three spring practices.
The 26-year-old Smith-Schuster is coming off a productive season with the Kansas City Chiefs, catching 78 passes for 933 yards and three touchdowns in 16 games for the Super Bowl champs. He previously starred for the Pittsburgh Steelers, turning in a 111-catch Pro Bowl campaign in 2018 and catching 97 balls in 2020.
Receivers DeVante Parker, Kendrick Bourne and Tyquan Thornton all saw significant reps with Jones and the first-team offense Wednesday, with Thornton delivering an especially strong performance. Sixth-round rookie Demario Douglas also flashed while working with all three Patriots QBs and will be a player to watch this spring and summer.