Smith, Patriots TEs show lots of improvement in second Pats-Panthers practice

Jonnu Smith

FOXBORO -- Jonnu Smith gave an underwhelming performance Tuesday in the first joint practice between the Patriots and Panthers outside Gillette Stadium.

He dropped multiple passes and didn't have the best communication with Patriots quarterback Mac Jones. Those issues were cleaned up in impressive fashion Wednesday as Smith dominated the 1-on-1 period.

Smith went 3-for-3 with wins against Panthers starting safety Jeremy Chinn and cornerback C.J. Henderson during 1-on-1s early in practice, including a nice back-shoulder grab for a touchdown in the corner of the end zone. He also drew a holding penalty in those drills.

"Just win, and compete," Smith said of his mindset during the 1-on-1s. "We have a lot of talent on both sides of the ball. If we go out there and compete, everything else will take care of itself."

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One of the first few plays after another fight between the two teams, Smith hauled in another touchdown pass from Jones in an 11-on-11 team drill, which fired up the Patriots sideline. 

Smith did not have a great debut season in New England. He tallied just 28 receptions for 294 yards and one touchdown in 16 games. He caught eight touchdown passes with the Tennessee Titans in 2020.

The Patriots need Smith to have a bounce-back year if the offense is going to reach a higher level. Hunter Henry, who didn't practice Tuesday or Wednesday, had a strong first year with the Patriots in 2021. If both Henry and Smith are both producing at an impressive rate, the Patriots passing attack could be pretty tough to stop this season, especially in two tight end sets. 


Smith is confident that the new offense suits his skill set and the entire group as a whole.

"I think it's very position friendly," Smith said. "We've got guys who can make plays all over the field, and I think this offense will allow us to do that."

Smith wasn't the only tight end who made several nice plays Wednesday.

Matt Sokol also went 2-for-2 in 1-on-1s, including a great catch in the back of the end zone despite tight coverage. Devin Asiasi ended Tuesday's session with a touchdown catch from backup quarterback Brian Hoyer. He carried that momentum into Wednesday with four receptions on five reps, plus a penalty drawn, in 1-on-1 drills.

Tight end is one area where the Patriots can show plenty of improvement in 2022, and Wednesday's performances from Smith, Asiasi and Sokol were definitely a step in the right direction entering Friday night's second preseason game versus the Panthers.