JuJu Smith-Schuster is trying his best. That’s how position coach Troy Brown summed up his highest-paid pupil’s rough start with the Patriots.

Brown, the former New England receiver and current Patriots wideouts coach, was asked Tuesday for his thoughts on Smith-Schuster, who totaled just 66 receiving yards over his first three games with the team.

“He’s been fine,” Brown said in a video conference. “He’s done everything we ask him to do. That’s where we are on JuJu. He’s going out there, he’s competing, he’s trying. He’s trying to get blocks, trying to get open, trying to catch the ball — all the things we ask him to do.”

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So far, that effort hasn’t translated into results.

The Patriots signed Smith-Schuster this offseason to be an upgrade over former top receiver Jakobi Meyers, but he enters this Sunday’s Week 4 matchup with the Dallas Cowboys ranked seventh on the team in receiving yards. His 6.6 yards-per-catch average is 52nd among the 53 NFL wideouts who have seen at least 15 targets this season, and his most recent game was one of the least productive of his seven-year career.

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The 26-year-old caught one pass on three targets for 5 yards and was flagged for an illegal blindside block during the Patriots’ 15-10 win over the New York Jets at MetLife Field. It was just the fourth time in 82 career games that he failed to record multiple catches.

More concerning than his mediocre stats was how Smith-Schuster has looked in these games. He hasn’t shown his old explosiveness — a possible aftereffect of the knee injury he suffered in last season’s AFC Championship Game — and doesn’t yet have the necessary chemistry with quarterback Mac Jones.

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Jones’ two incompletions to Smith-Schuster on Sunday — on a pair of critical late-game third downs — both were back-shoulder throws to which the wideout did not adjust properly.

It’s worth noting Smith-Schuster sat out nearly all of spring practice as he recovered from his injury and said he did not link up with Jones for throwing sessions ahead of New England’s offseason program.

Smith-Schuster has been a full practice participant since the start of training camp, and Jones has praised him on multiple occasions. But their on-field connection isn’t where it needs to be.

“In those instances, we work hard on those throws during practice,” offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien said Tuesday when asked about the two back-shoulder misses. “It’s somewhat early in the season; it’s really hard to simulate that in practice, and it comes from a lot of repetition.

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“It’s not any excuse at all. We need to do a better job of practicing those, making sure that we hit those in practice, and then getting it done in the game, we didn’t. We were close, but close isn’t good enough. We’ve got to start connecting on those types of plays.”

Featured image via Eric Canha/USA TODAY Sports Images