It’s been evident through three weeks of the regular season that the Kansas City Chiefs are lacking veteran experience in their wide receiver room.
That’s likely why Chiefs superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes revealed to FOX Sports’ Erin Andrews that he “took for granted” what veteran receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster did for him during the 2022 season. Andrews detailed her conversation with Mahomes late in the first quarter during FOX’s telecast of Kansas City’s Week 3 home game against the Chicago Bears on September 24.
The remarks from Mahomes about JuJu came when he and Andrews were discussing the state of Kansas City’s offense in 2022. Mahomes explained that having a young offense around him makes him appreciate “the little things” that are done on the football field, per Andrews, and then mentioned tight end Travis Kelce and JuJu respectively as examples.
JuJu Got Paid, But Not Producing on Stat Sheet
During the 2022 season, JuJu registered 78 receptions on 101 targets for 933 yards and 3 touchdowns in 16 regular season games played, according to Pro Football Reference. During Kansas City’s Super Bowl run earlier this year, Smith-Schuster recorded 10 catches on 12 targets for 89 yards in three games played.
This offseason, JuJu took to free agency and signed a three-year, $25.5 million contract with the New England Patriots. As a talented veteran who was joining a New England receiver room that was filled with young/inexperienced players, JuJu was projected to be one of quarterback Mac Jones’s top targets in 2023. But through three games that hasn’t been the case.
Smith-Schuster has 10 catches for 66 yards heading into Week 4 of the NFL season. He had yet to play over 60% percent of the team’s total offense snaps through two weeks of the regular season, but registered a 73.6% snap share in Week 3, per Pro Football Reference.
JuJu is tied for third on the Patriots in receptions, is third in targets, and ranks eighth in receiving yards.
Though Patriots head coach Bill Belichick spoke glowingly of JuJu after the team’s Week 3 win over the New York Jets, Smith-Schuster’s offensive production via the passing game has been minimal this season.
With the Chiefs and Patriots offenses having their fair share of mishaps through three weeks of the regular season, one can’t help but wonder how Smith-Schuster could have performed in Kansas City had he returned for a second season with the defending Super Bowl champions.
Chiefs Passing Game Inconsistent Through 3 Weeks
According to the Washington Post, the Chiefs lead the league in passes dropped (7). Justin Watson is the team’s leading receiver with 158 yards, and rookie Rashee Rice leads the receivers in catches with 10.
Not having JuJu Smith-Schuster — who can player multiple receiver roles and has the NFL experience to find the soft spots in coverages opposite Travis Kelce — has made things more difficult for Patrick Mahomes when he drops back, as there is no one else on the roster that can mimic what Kelce and JuJu can do when it comes to “the little things.”
It’s still possible that one or several of Kansas City’s young pass catchers can develop into a reliable target for Mahomes. But as of now, the lack of experience in the receiver room has Mahomes thinking about JuJu’s value to Kansas City’s offense.