Jakobi Meyers isn’t walking through that door.

But someone needs to step up, take the baton and be Mac Jones’ next go-to-guy before it’s too late.

Jones needs to find that reliable chain-mover, much like Meyers was the last three seasons. He needs to find someone he trusts to get open in those got-to-have-it situations.

Three weeks into the Patriots’ 2023 season, that guy hasn’t materialized. Jones’ new binky has yet to emerge. See the second half of Sunday’s 15-10 win over the Jets for details.

During the offseason, the thinking was JuJu Smith-Schuster, who was signed in the offseason as a free agent, might evolve into being that guy, since he also played in the slot.

While it’s early, it hasn’t happened.


Jones and Smith-Schuster hardly looked on the same page on Sunday, especially on third down with the game on the line. Does that mean it won’t ever happen?

No, but given Smith-Schuster also appears hampered by a knee problem, it doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen any time soon. So Jones needs to look elsewhere.

Former NFL quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said it won’t be a wide receiver from the current cast. It’ll be a tight end.

He pushed for Hunter Henry.

Hasselbeck, whose father, Don, played tight end for the Patriots, still keeps an eye on the NFL, and the Patriots in particular. So he wasn’t shy throwing out a name.

“In critical, critical situations, who am I starting my progression with? I think Hunter Henry can be that guy,” said Hasselbeck, a Boston College alum. “I see that rapport there. (Mike) Gesicki is a real weapon in the passing game as well. So I don’t think it just needs to be a wide receiver. And just looking at, I don’t want to say talent, but looking at the experience and what you see from this roster, I think the tight ends are a real strength.”


As a former quarterback, Hasselbeck understands the importance of having that one guy who’ll make life easier in high-pressure situations. He watched Tom Brady form that special bond with several wide receivers over time, and at least one tight end (Rob Gronkowski).

“I’ve had years where (the go-to-guy) doesn’t always have to be the same guy every year, depending on what the trends in the league are,” said Hasselbeck. “And I don’t think it needs to be a wide receiver, either. If you think back to some of the great quarterbacks who’ve played, the guys I looked up to, sometimes it was the tight end. There’s nothing wrong with making the tight end … that guy.”

Hasselbeck even suggested it could be a running back. Historically, the Patriots have had a great line of pass-catching third-down backs, from Kevin Faulk to Danny Woodhead to Shane Vereen to James White. The way Rhamondre Stevenson and Ezekiel Elliott have been used, they’re sharing the job in the backfield and everything that comes with it. So neither one has been established in a pass-catching role.

Receiver possibilities? Three games in, Kendrick Bourne is the top wideout with 14 catches on 25 targets, and while he has the ability to make things happen, he doesn’t seem like the go-to guy right now. Henry, meanwhile, is second with 13 catches on 18 targets. He had success with Jones his rookie year. Not so much last year.

One other possibility? Demario “Pop” Douglas. Whether being a rookie or not being trusted given his critical Week 2 fumble, Douglas hasn’t been on the field much. But as a slot receiver who is shifty and gets open quickly, he fits the profile. He just hasn’t had much time with Jones to establish chemistry or build the kind of trust that’s necessary.

“I don’t want to say it’s love-at-first sight, but it can be that way,” Hasselbeck said when asked how long it takes to form that bond. “I played with a guy named Brandon Stokley. We signed him on a Wednesday, and started him on Sunday.”


Or, that relationship can take quite a bit of time. In some cases, another quarterback’s go-to-guy might not immediately earn binky status with a new team or a new QB.

Case in point, Hasselbeck struggled getting on the same page with former Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch after Branch left Brady and the Patriots.

“It’s not math. There’s some guys who are great in one system, struggle in another. That’s a real thing,” said Hasselbeck. “I remember we traded for Deion Branch, who was maybe Tom Brady’s favorite receiver he’s ever played with. He and Deion had this amazing connection.

“But in Seattle, I struggled with Deion at first,” he went on. “I loved him as a person, he was a great teammate. But for whatever reason, we weren’t connecting. I don’t know what it was … I don’t have a great explanation for it. That’s why they call it chemistry, I guess.”

For now, Smith-Schuster and Jones don’t have it. Henry and Bourne are the closest to being viewed as Jones’ go-to-guy. They’re in the ballpark. It just hasn’t materialized heading into Week 4

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