After joining the team in free agency this offseason, Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster’s early-season play can fairly be described as solid — but not spectacular. After catching six passes for 79 yards in Week 1’s victory over the Arizona Cardinals, his production plummeted in Week 2 against the Los Angeles Chargers. Smith-Schuster caught just three passes for 10 yards in Kansas City’s Thursday night victory over its AFC West rivals.
But the former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver remains unconcerned with how his new team uses him.
“We talk about this all the time,” Smith-Schuster explained before practice on Wednesday. “Anybody can get the ball. Anyone can make the play — no matter who is in that position. Just know that when your number is called: make the play. That’s what it is.
“I see myself being the guy that — wherever they need me at — I’m there to be that guy. Inside, outside, whatever that may be. If they need me to block, [I’ll] come block. If they need me to do this or do that — I’ll do it. I’m an all-around guy.”
Like all receivers who find success in Kansas City, Smith-Schuster recognizes the importance of mastering all formations in head coach Andy Reid’s offense. He also realizes that such versatility suits the skills of quarterback Patrick Mahomes — and helps the team prepare for injuries.
“Knowing every position, knowing that Pat can trust you, [and] that you know what you’ve got on this route [or] on this play,” he said of the team’s expectations. “In a situation where someone goes down, you’ve got to fill that void. Just because it’s a certain personnel [package] for a certain player — at the end of the day — everyone has to know that position. Everyone has to know that play because you never know when your time is called.”
He also noted that when Mahomes famously takes the offense out of structure, the receivers are themselves improvising to help him.
“When Pat’s scrambling [and] out of pocket,” he noted, “we’re all scrambling, trying to find a way to get the ball, catch the football, and make plays. That’s just the norm.”
And according to Smith-Schuster, such effort is now the norm because of the time he and his teammates have put in with his new quarterback throughout the offseason.
“[I am] very comfortable,” he declared. “We’ve been practicing all throughout OTAs [and] all throughout camp. It’s something that we do in the game, and I’m not surprised when we score on it.”
Though he has not yet scored as a Chief, his quarterback believes Smith-Schuster’s time is coming — and that the team has already benefited from the receiver’s intangibles.
“He’s going to be a great player,” Mahomes predicted in his own media remarks Wednesday. “He’s going to have a lot of yards and a lot of touchdowns and everything like that. But the way that he’s able to be a leader in that receiving room — as someone who’s new to a team — I think it’s going to keep making this offense and this team even better, because you have a guy that comes into work every single day and he puts in that work. He’ll get more and more opportunities as the season goes on.”
The next opportunity will come on the road Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts. While the 0-1-1 Colts have struggled early, Smith-Schuster knows not to take them lightly, citing his experience against some of their best defensive players — such as cornerback Stephon Gilmore and linebacker Shaquille Leonard.
“Even though they’re struggling right now, I think they’re a great team,” he countered. “They’re going to have a lot of puzzles — great pieces — that they have on their defense that’s going to fit really, really well. I’m excited to go against Gilmore — he’s a guy that I went against multiple times when I was in Pittsburgh and him being in New England. It’s really cool. Their middle linebacker — he’s the captain on the team — he’s been doing it for so long. I just got to give it up to them. We can’t go into this game taking it lightly — especially with it being an away game.”
After Sunday, the Chiefs will begin a three-game stretch of nationally-televised games against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Las Vegas Raiders, and the Buffalo Bills. Smith-Schuster reiterated that the team’s focus can only be on Sunday’s matchup with the Colts.
“Honestly, I don’t even know who we have next,” he claimed. “I just know that I have the Colts next. Every team is really, really good. I think you have to take it week by week. I focus on this week alone. The Colts — in Indy — are on our schedule for this week. Once we get past Sunday, then Boom! — we’re on to the next.”