Sports Sunday

Will Patriots keep an extra WR due to Smith-Schuster injury concerns?

The Patriots could give both of their rookie wideouts a roster spot as injury insurance.

NBC Universal, Inc.

JuJu Smith-Schuster is a talented wide receiver fresh off a 933-yard campaign and a Super Bowl title with the Kansas City Chiefs. But his success with the New England Patriots is no sure thing, based on one key factor: his health.

Smith-Schuster played through a knee injury during last season's playoffs and didn't participate in minicamp with the Patriots this spring as he rehabbed that ailment. While he's been on the field for New England in training camp, Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer shared some concerning insight about Smith-Schuster's injury history, and why it may motivate the Patriots to keep an extra wide receiver on their 53-man roster.

"I think the hidden thing here, and one reason why (the Patriots) might hang on to six or even seven receivers, is JuJu Smith Schuster's health," Breer said on NBC Sports Boston's Sports Sunday, as seen in the video player above.

"I just went and visited all these teams, I talked to people in Kansas City -- they thought his knees were so bad that he wasn't going to be able to play in the Super Bowl. He could barely move around the week of the Super Bowl, and it's one of the reasons why they weren't willing to go very far with him financially."

Smith-Schuster currently is the Patriots' No. 1 wide receiver, with DeVante Parker, Kendrick Bourne and Tyquan Thornton behind him as the only other veterans on the depth chart. Rookie Demario "Pop" Douglas has had an excellent training camp and looks like a safe bet to make the team as New England's fifth receiver.

But Breer believes the team may look to roll with one or two extra wideouts as insurance for Smith-Schuster.

"JuJu Smith-Schuster is a guy that you're going to be relying on as your slot receiver and you're not sure what you're going to get from him from a health standpoint with his knee," Breer added. "So, I think that means Pop Douglas is already on the team as a backup slot receiver.

"If JuJu were to go down, now, do you need depth behind Pop? And that's where it sort of metastasized into, do you keep six or seven receivers? I think that's the position they're in right now."

Rookie sixth-round pick Kayshon Boutte has shown flashes in training camp, so perhaps the Patriots squeeze him onto the roster as the sixth wideout. The team also could get creative with rookie Malik Cunningham, who has taken reps at both quarterback and wide receiver in camp, by putting him on the roster as a QB but having him as emergency WR depth.

The ideal scenario is that Smith-Schuster stays healthy and is a productive pass-catcher who makes New England forget about departed wideout Jakobi Meyers. But it sounds like his health is far from guaranteed, which is why the team should be ready with contingency plans.

Contact Us