The 2019 season has been somewhat of a grind for third-year wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. Not only is it the first season, since Antonio Brown forced his way out of the Pittsburgh Steelers organization, that he has consistently faced double teams, it’s also been a matter of the instability at the quarterback position.
Through the first eight games of the season, Ben Roethlisberger played in a total of six quarters. He has already missed more time than he ever has in a single season, and, obviously, he is going to miss the next eight games as well.
Both of those factors have taken a toll on the 2018 Pro Bowler’s productivity. He only has 33 receptions on the season and is not even on-pace to reach 1000 receiving yards. He has three touchdowns on the year, just off his average of seven touchdowns.
He has been held to under 20 receiving yards on three separate occasions so far this year; however, he has gone for 75 yards or more in the other five games, and he had a real breakthrough performance two weeks ago against the Miami Dolphins, with five catches for 103 yards and a score.
The hope was that that would serve as the catalyst for getting him situated into the offense and in-rhythm with Mason Rudolph, but the pair came out this past week and delivered just three receptions for under 20-yards—though he did have a dropped pass that led to an interception.
By Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay isn’t looking at all of that. He’s looking at what Smith-Schuster can do to his defense on any one play, because it only takes one. He told reporters earlier this week of what they have to look out for regarding the wide receiver, “I think really everything”:
They do a good job moving him around, and he’s not limited in anything that he can do. He’s got great run after the catch, he’s got great aggressive hands, he can separate underneath, he can create the big plays, he can win the 50/50 ball. You see why his production has been what it is in the first couple years. I can remember a couple years ago when we had him out here working out, for such a young player just in terms of his age, very mature, strong, powerful. He’s got all those traits. You feel like, alright, he might not be that burner, but he runs away from everybody. He’s got great game speed and it’s really just a challenge for our defense as a whole to know here the is at all times and make sure that he’s accounted for because as soon as you just slip up a little bit, he makes you pay and makes a big play that ends up changing the narrative of the game.
The Rams recently acquired All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey from the Jacksonville Jaguars, and you can bet he’ll spend most of the day lined up against Smith-Schuster. The two have gone up against each other before, and each has won some battles. It will be interesting to see how he fares this time around with Rudolph throwing him the ball.