One of the big questions going into the offseason was if quarterback Mac Jones would be QB1. There were debates on whether coach Bill Belichick was going to start Jones or Bailey Zappe -- or if the Patriots would add to the QB room. However, now that all signs point to Jones being the starter under center, who will be supporting him and do the Patriots have enough firepower to compete in the AFC East are the prevailing questions.
Well, Smith-Schuster seems to think the Patriots have plenty surrounding his new quarterback to help the team excel this year.
"Most definitely, most definitely. We definitely have enough," Smith-Schuster told reporters on Tuesday. "We've got guys who can run down the field. We've got guys that can do a lot of different things. What's crazy about this offense that I didn't know about until I got here was that there's guys that play both ways. There's guys that can play receiver, that can play in the backfield, and seeing that you can have so many different weapons with these players, it just gives Mac these opportunities to do whatever he wants."
Parker, who missed four games in his first season with the club, recorded 31 receptions for 539 yards and three touchdowns in 2022. Then there's Bourne. After an explosive 2021 season where he tallied career highs in catches, yards and touchdowns, the 27-year-old's production inexplicably plummeted this past season. He's a wild card, but if Bourne can resurrect his 2021 form, he could be the Patriots' X-factor. Thornton, who was the 50th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, spent a fair amount of the season on the sideline due to surgery to repair a collarbone injury suffered before the regular season. Smith-Schuster had 78 receptions for 933 yards and three touchdowns in 16 games with the reigning Super Bowl lVII-champion Kansas City Chiefs.
While Parker and Smith-Schuster will arguably be Jones' most potent weapons on offense, New England also bet on wide receivers during the 2023 NFL Draft. Kayshon Boutte from LSU and Demario Douglas from Liberty were drafted in the sixth round, and both could prove to be very useful in 2023 if they impress during the preseason.
Running back Rhamondre Stevenson will keep the Patriots afloat as he is coming off an impressive second year with 1,040 rushing yards and five touchdowns. A dual-threat RB who's emerged as the team's top offensive skill player, Stevenson also was the team's leading rusher and pass catcher in 2022.
New England also signed former Miami Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki to pair with Hunter Henry, who has been with New England since 2021. Both tight ends will likely be major targets for Jones, who might need to put on a show this year to keep his starting position.
No matter what, Smith-Schuster has faith in his quarterback and has high hopes for how Jones will perform during his third campaign with New England.
"For Mac, though, the sky is the limit," Smith-Schuster said. "With the guys that we have here and all the weapons, it's gonna be a fun year."