NFL Rumors: New England Patriots Wide Receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster Tumbling Down Depth Chart

The New England Patriots are apparently at odds with yet another wide receiver. According to the Boston Herald's Andrew Callahan, multiple figures within the Patriots' organization no longer consider JuJu Smith-Schuster one of their top-five pass catchers. The Patriots acquired Smith-Schuster during the early days of 2023 free agency, signing the one-time Pro Bowler to a three-year, $25.5 million contract and immediately rendering him the highest-paid wide receiver on the team. He led all wide receivers on last year's Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs in receptions (78) and receiving yards (933).

Smith-Schuster caught a modest four of his seven targets for 33 yards in the Patriots' 25-20 defeat at the hand of the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 1, but it was his usage and snap count that really set alarm bells blaring. His 43 offensive snaps ranked third on the team among wide receivers, behind last year's malcontent Kendrick Bourne (73 snaps) and rookie sixth-round pick Kayshan Boutte (55 snaps). 

Despite an astonishing 11 top-five finishes in points scored from 2001-2018, the Patriots under Bill Belichick have often had fraught, complicated relationships with wide receivers, dating all the way back to Terry Glenn in 2000, Belichick's first year as head coach. But Smith-Schuster's fall from grace may be the quickest yet.

The Patriots suffered through a needlessly complicated 2022 thanks to borderline self-sabotage on offense. There was optimism that the hiring of Bill O'Brien as offensive coordinator would bring stability, but he can't be expected to elevate a deeply flawed roster to greatness. 

If the Patriots have already deemed their Smith-Schuster experiment a bust, they'll end up fielding one of the worst wide receiver corps in the league. That will not only doom them to another mediocre season, but it could also cost third-year quarterback Mac Jones the confidence of fans and coaches. He isn't Tom Brady, and he shouldn't have to be. If the Patriots want him to succeed, they'll need to invest heavily to elevate the talent around him, not scrimp and bargain-hunt like they did all throughout the Brady years.  
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