Patriots mailbag: What’s JuJu Smith-Schuster’s future with Demario Douglas emerging?

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The Patriots are currently sitting with a surplus of wide receivers on their 53-man roster.

After signing Jalen Reagor to the 53-man roster, the Patriots are sitting with seven wide receivers on their active roster. That’s leading to some questions from fans about what the team has planned for the future.

Let’s get into questions about JuJu Smith-Schuster, Tyquan Thornton, future needs and more in this week’s mailbag.

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Is there any indication Juju will be used more? Any thing on the Patriots pursuing receiver help before the trade deadline?

I think, if anything, there’s an indication that Smith-Schuster will be used less.

Smith-Schuster plays the “Z” and slot roles in the Patriots’ offense. They can’t take Kendrick Bourne, their primary “Z” receiver, off of the field. He’s their most consistent pass catcher. If anything, rookie slot receiver Demario Douglas has only earned more snaps after last week’s win over the Bills.

Then the Patriots still have to figure out spots and snaps for DeVante Parker, their starting “X” receiver, Reagor, who cut into Parker’s snaps last week and was signed to the 53-man roster this week, Tyquan Thornton, who played limited snaps last week in the “Z” role, and Kayshon Boutte, another “X” receiver who has been a healthy scratch since Week 1.

It feels unlikely that the Patriots would dress more than five wide receivers. Boutte seems like a safe bet to continue to be inactive. Then the team has to decide on one more inactive between Parker, Reagor, Thornton and Smith-Schuster. Thornton feels like the most likely option based on his snap count last week.

Then again, Douglas and Smith-Schuster were both limited throughout last week in concussion protocol. Douglas played, and Smith-Schuster did not. We’ll keep a close eye on inactives Sunday to find out which two receivers sit.

As for a potential trade, I don’t really see it. I know Raiders wide receiver Hunter Renfrow looks like a good fit on paper, but the same was said about his play style in Josh McDaniels’ offense, and that has been a disaster. The Patriots also already have a much cheaper slot option in Douglas, who you don’t want to take off of the field.

Has Jalen Reagor really been THAT good in practices?

I had heard even before his Week 2 elevation that he had been impressive in practice and that his speed was really jumping out to the team.

So, yes. I still want to see him contribute with more than one catch before I believe he’ll make a major impact, but it’s worth seeing if he can add some big-play ability while cutting into Parker’s snaps.

Why can’t Tyquan Thornton get open or have an actual role, seems like Reagor has already passed him on the depth chart

It’s wise to temper any expectations for Thornton.

He played 25 snaps and caught one 6-yard pass on two targets in his season debut Week 6. And then he played three snaps in Week 7.

And yeah, they play slightly different roles, but it does seem like Reagor passed him on the depth chart. It is easier to find playing time at the “X” role, where Parker plays, rather than cutting into Bourne’s snaps in the “Z” position, though.

There’s really no guarantee that Thornton will even be active in Week 8.

Hey Doug, as always hope you’re doing well.

During the off-season Deandre Hopkins came to visit, with all the rumors of his availability, do you see the Patriots taking another swing at acquiring him?

I actually had this thought after the Titans traded Kevin Byard, but I would be very surprised. The time to acquire him was before they started the season 2-5.

Have they realized throwing it to Mondre is key to success yet or not

It is definitely smart to get the running backs more involved in the passing game.

Throwing to Stevenson wasn’t a very efficient play prior to Week 8, however. Take out Stevenson’s 32-yard catch and run in Week 7, and he’s averaging just 5.9 yards per catch.

Will they beat the Dolphins?

Good question here from a Miami-based reporter.

I’d throw it back at you, Adam, and ask, “Is Tyreek Hill playing?”

It feels like anything is on the table after last week’s win over the Bills, but I’d still predict a Dolphins victory.

Looking forward to the 2024 season. What is a greater priority in the draft/free agency, pass protection or offensive weapons? #MailDoug

Quarterback is No. 1 until Mac Jones continues to prove that last Sunday’s performance was for real.

Then I’d put pass protection No. 2 and offensive playmakers No. 3.

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