The New England Patriots will have a lot to prove in 2022.
New England is coming off of a Wild Card exit in 2021 and suffered some major losses in the offseason. J.C. Jackson is no longer patrolling the secondary and Josh McDaniels is no longer on the sidelines controlling the offense.
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Even for some players who will still be on the roster after 2021, there are statements to be made. Mac Jones will be looking to prove that his impressive rookie season was not a fluke and that he has the potential to be a top quarterback in the league.
Another player who has a lot to prove is Jonnu Smith. The tight end signed a massive contract in the 2021 offseason and struggled in his first season in New England. Smith only had 28 catches, 294 yards, and a single touchdown.
When you consider the contract that Smith signed, that’s a massive disappointment. The tight end is in the second year of a four-year deal worth $50 million that includes $31.25 million guaranteed.
Who Will Smith Be Competing Against?
While Smith struggled, the same can’t be said about Hunter Henry. In Henry’s debut season with the Patriots, he tallied 50 receptions for 603 yards and nine touchdowns.
Henry and Jones built some great chemistry last season, and the tight end should receive plenty of targets in 2022. That could hamper Smith’s ability to rebound from a disappointing season.
New England also has an impressive group of wide receivers. The Patriots acquired DeVante Parker who will look to be the top wide receiver in New England. Jakobi Meyers and Kendrick Bourne will also be returning and looking to improve on their 2021 seasons.
Could Smith’s Role Change in 2022?
It appears that Smith could be utilized in different ways during the upcoming season. ESPN’s Mike Reiss wrote in his column that the Patriots could be creative when it comes to Smith’s usage in 2022.
“The Patriots are transitioning away from a traditional fullback after not re-signing Jakob Johnson, which could mean they find more creative ways to use Smith as a complement to top tight end Hunter Henry,” Reiss wrote.
Along with the loss of Johnson, New England suffered some losses on the offensive line that will make blocking more important. Shaq Mason was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Ted Karras signed with the Cincinatti Bengals.
Damien Harris is coming off an impressive season where he tallied 202 carries, 929 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns. If Harris hopes to have another great season, he will need his offensive line and other blockers to step up and create holes for the running back to blast through.
New England also has Rhamondre Stevenson who had a quality rookie season. Stevenson racked up 606 rushing yards and five touchdowns.
So it will be interesting to see how Smith is utilized in 2022 but there is no doubt that the veteran has a lot to prove to fans in New England.