Evidenced by his underwhelming first season in New England after signing a lucrative free-agent contract, Patriots tight end Jonnu Smith has a lot to work on in 2022. After a stellar 2020 with the Tennessee Titans, he arrived in Foxboro but caught only 28 passes for 294 yards and a lone touchdown - not to mention four drops and a fumble - playing in Hunter Henry's shadow.
Despite that marginal role, Smith has high hopes for an improved season and connection with quarterback Mac Jones. He'd better hope so, because we know New England's track record when it sees a player not living up to a big contract like Smith's four-year, $50 million deal.
The 26-year-old tight end took time during the Patriots' respite before next month's training camp to visit the set of NFL Network's Good Morning Football Monday morning. While Smith didn't have much to brag about personally, he gushed about his second-year quarterback.
“Honestly, just the way he can turn it on,” Smith said when asked about what impressed him he most about Jones. “Mac is probably one of the goofiest guys in the locker room, to be honest. But when we step on that field, he’s just a different character. He’s just got so much ability and so much dog in him. Once he flips that switch, he’s a whole different character. Some guys don’t know how to cut that on and cut that off when it’s time to do it. He’s so young. He’s poised. He’s got a little swagger to him.”
Jones will obviously be the centerpiece of the Patriots’ offense, but Smith will also be an important cog in - one that also needs to make a second-year leap. He was used primarily as a blocker last season, playing only 47 percent of offensive snaps.
The sixth-year tight end becoming more of a factor as a receiving option would be a boost for New England’s offense, but he will naturally not be the only skill position player for Jones to work with.
“We just have so many talented guys in the locker room, even guys that are better outside of the locker room, outside of the gridiron,” he said. “Just a group of great guys all coming together for one common goal. I’m just confident, in every goal that we have set out to reach. It’s going to be something amazing to look forward to.”