Patriots

Did a Patriots philosophy shift lead Jakob Johnson to join Raiders?

Patriots

If you ask Jakob Johnson, there's a pretty straightforward reason why he's not back with the New England Patriots for a fourth NFL season.

After signing a one-year contract with the Las Vegas Raiders last week, Johnson told a German news agency that New England doesn't plan to use a fullback in 2022.

"The Patriots have informed me that they will no longer need my services next season simply because they will no longer have my position on the roster," Johnson told the German Press Agency, as translated and transcribed by Rene Bugner on Twitter.

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Johnson had carved out a role as a dependable fullback in Foxboro, serving as a physical lead blocker in the Patriots' rushing attack while tallying 13 receptions for 83 yards over three seasons.

But Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is out the door, and Johnson's comments suggest McDaniels is taking his offensive philosophy with him to Las Vegas, where the team also acquired ex-Patriots running back Brandon Bolden.

So, what will New England's offense look like in 2022 if it eschews the fullback position, which has been a staple of the offense for the last decade between Johnson (2019 to 2021) and James Develin (2012 to 2019)?

That's a good question, especially considering the Patriots don't have an official offensive coordinator to replace McDaniels. Joe Judge (quarterbacks), Matt Patricia (offensive line) and Nick Caley (tight ends) all are potential candidates to call plays, while head coach Bill Belichick also could assume some of those duties.

 

New England could employ Jonnu Smith in a Johnson-like role, as the 6-foot-3, 248-pound tight end took some snaps at fullback last season and can play multiple offensive positions. But $50 million over four years is a lot to pay a glorified fullback, and the Patriots are probably hoping Smith can contribute more in the passing game after a disappointing 2021 season.

In any case, it appears 2022 could bring a change in offensive style to New England in Year 1 of the post-McDaniels era.