The New England Patriots on Wednesday signed arguably the top wide receiver on the free-agent market, JuJu Smith-Schuster. But does the addition make the receiving corps any better than last year's?
Smith-Schuster will serve as a replacement for ex-Pats slot receiver Jakobi Meyers, who recently signed an identical contract (three years, $ 33 million) with the Las Vegas Raiders. The two wideouts share similar skill sets, which has left some wondering whether New England would have been better off sticking with Meyers. Our Phil Perry shared that viewpoint on Wednesday's Early Edition.
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"This doesn't make them better. It's essentially the same guy," Perry said. "Since Jakobi Meyers got into the league in 2019, they are the same player. They are five catches, 50 yards per game, about the same guy. Even if you break it down even more finely and you look at last season, you look at these guys and their performances on third and fourth down. Those critical situations where Jakobi Meyers was so critical to this offense. Again, essentially the same guy. Eighty-three percent first-down conversion percentage for Jakobi Meyers, 85 for JuJu Smith-Schuster.
"JuJu Smith-Schuster in an excellent offense last year with the best quarterback on the planet. All kinds of great scheme going on there. Last year for the Patriots, not so much. You're the same guy, I think only less reliable because you have no idea how JuJu Smith-Schuster is going to fit into not only the offense, but the program. And we've seen guys, he's a big personality, we've seen big personalities come here before and they have to kind of feel their way around. How do I fit in? How do I let myself be myself in New England? Can I do that? Those are all questions for me with JuJu Smith-Schuster."
One area where Smith-Schuster has the clear advantage over Meyers is YAC (yards after catch). He had 6.1 YAC per reception last season and Meyers has never had more than 3.8 through his four NFL seasons.
Our Tom E. Curran acknowledged Smith-Schuster is superior in that category, but noted that Meyers' strengths in other areas will be missed.
"You really have to get to the fine print to find where the players are different," Curran said. "(Smith-Schuster) is a bigger player than Jakobi Meyers. He's a guy who catches the ball in shorter range but will also gain for you after the catch a significant amount more yards. Jakobi is not that because he runs about a 4.6. He's never going to be a great YAC guy. But I think when it comes down to understanding nuances, having been a former quarterback which is something Bill Belichick has stressed, Jakobi Meyers was excellent at that. We'll find out how good JuJu Smith-Schuster is here.
"I spoke at length to Devin McCourty today about all of this and a number of other things, and he said, 'I wonder how good JuJu was playing opposite Antonio Brown.' By the same token, when you look at his good season last year with Kansas City, how good was he with (Travis Kelce) on the field? How good was he with Patrick Mahomes and the number of weapons they had in Andy Reid's offense? So it's one guy in for another guy out. A big personality coming in for a guy that was everything that you wanted in a player in terms of dependability and leadership."
For the full discussion on Early Edition, watch the video below.