Patriots May Be Set to Play High-Priced Free Agent at a New Position

Getty Jonnu Smith

The New England Patriots could be set to unleash Jonnu Smith the running back against the Cleveland Browns in Week 10.

The Patriots are expected to be thin at the RB position with Damien Harris ruled out because of a concussion and rookie Rhamondre Stevenson questionable with the same condition, the team doesn’t have a lot of options beyond veteran Brandon Bolden and the smallish J.J. Taylor. 

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Those injury concerns would be enough to suggest Smith could see some carries against the Browns, but perhaps a bigger signal is the elevation of practice squad TE Matt LaCrosse. The veteran has not been active for any other games this season and his presence would seemingly give the Patriots more tight ends than they have had available for games this season. 

It seems possible Smith could be slid to the running back spot to take some carries while also remaining a potential weapon in the passing game. LaCosse could then become the second tight end behind Hunter Henry.

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Jonnu Smith Has Experience Playing RB

Smith has experience playing running back. He had 6 rushes for 82 yards with the Tennessee Titans. He also has 4 attempts with the Patriots for 20 yards this season. Smith’s versatility has long been a major aspect of his appeal. If he were to pop as a RB in Week 10 vs. the Browns, that would be a major event in what has been an otherwise disappointing season for Smith.

In 9 games of action in 2021, Smith has just 21 receptions for 193 yards and a TD. It’s safe to say that’s not what the Patriots were expecting to get from Smith when they signed him to a four-year $50 million contract in the offseason. 

To make matters a little worse, Henry (the Patriots’ other high-priced tight end signing) is having a much bigger impact on the team’s offense. In 9 games, Henry has 27 receptions for 316 yards. More importantly, Henry has solidified himself as a legitimate red zone threat. He has 5 TD receptions this season, with at least one in each of the last five games.

As it is, we’re nearly at the point where Smith may need a shakeup to prevent the 2021 season from being a waste.

The Patriots Have a Massive List of Players on the Injury Report

Beyond the health situation with the Patriots’ running backs, there are even more potential depth issues for the team heading into Week 10. The Patriots will be without LB Jamie Collins. The team placed the veteran, and one of the stars of the Week 9 win over the Carolina Panthers on injured reserve. WR Gunner Olszewski also suffered a concussion and he is listed as doubtful as well.

New England will need to employ the next-man-up approach at several positions.

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