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Sports >  EWU football

Commentary: New England Patriots need to resolve Kendrick Bourne situation to hit their ceiling

Sept. 13, 2022 Updated Tue., Sept. 13, 2022 at 6:21 p.m.

Kendrick Bourne makes a catch during a 2021 game for the New England Patriots against the Miami Dolphins.  (Nancy Lane/Boston Herald)
Kendrick Bourne makes a catch during a 2021 game for the New England Patriots against the Miami Dolphins. (Nancy Lane/Boston Herald)
By Chris Mason

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – As the oppressive Floridan sun beat down on the New England Patriots sideline, Kendrick Bourne stood in the swampy humidity for 54 minutes with nothing to do.

New England’s most explosive offensive player in 2021, Bourne watched as DeVante Parker, Jakobi Meyers, and Nelson Agholor populated three wide receiver sets. Eventually, he saw practice squadder Lil’Jordan Humphrey enter the game before him. There Bourne stood, until there were fewer than 6 minutes on the clock in a 20-7 loss.

His fall down the depth chart is as perplexing as any in recent memory.

When Bourne finally did trot onto the field late in the fourth quarter, he looked lost, like he didn’t understand the play call. Jakobi Meyers gestured to him at the line of scrimmage, and it wasn’t brief. Eventually getting the message, he ran a route and wasn’t targeted.

A play later, the former Eastern Washington standout receiver did what he does best. He made something happen.

Streaking down the left sideline, Bourne burned past cornerback Nik Needham and Mac Jones dropped a ball into the bucket that safety Jevon Holland couldn’t reach in time. It went in the books as a 41-yard completion and the entire offense was juiced.

That catch was easily New England’s most explosive play of the day, which begs the question: Why weren’t there more of them?

After the game, Bill Belichick said the wide receiver’s lack of playing time wasn’t disciplinary, and Bourne was asked what the coaching staff had told him about the pseudo-benching.

“Not sure. Just playing my role,” Bourne said. “Whatever I’ve gotta do, I’m just waiting for that moment. I don’t really know. Just waiting on the opportunity.”

Is there anything specific he can point to that led to this?

“No, just not giving the coaches what they want. What they need to see,” Bourne said. “So just need to get better on my part.”

After excelling in his first season in Foxborough – something plenty of wideouts before him have struggled to do – Bourne turned in a tumultuous summer.

He got off to a slow start in training camp during 11-on-11 drills, and when joint practices with the Carolina Panthers rolled around, everything fell apart. Bourne was booted from one session for fighting, but even before that, Belichick had ripped into him right in front of the media tent for an equipment issue. It didn’t look like things were in a good place. Then Bourne was simply “unavailable” for the preseason game against Carolina and free fell down the depth chart from there.

“Disappointed in myself,” Bourne said. “I could be better. Play better. Practice better. So I think that’s what it takes, just me practicing better so the coaches can trust me more.”

Clearly Bourne’s raw ability hasn’t diminished. Turning a few snaps into 41 yards shows the 27-year-old can still be an impact player. If the Patriots are to hit their ceiling, they’re going to need Bourne to be just that.

Meyers was the only other player to register a 20-plus yard gain – a 27-yard circus catch in the second quarter – but he’s reliable a possession receiver. Bourne is a home run hitter, and in the 2022 NFL, the Patriots need the threat to go yard on any play.

In Miami, the Patriots moved the ball, but their drives were plodding. That’s part of the reason they only found the end zone once; when one negative play happened, things were too easily derailed. A player like Bourne that can rip off big plays changes things.

In his opening statement after the loss, Belichick lamented how close he believed the 20-7 loss was played.

“It was really a pretty even game,” Belichick said. “Two big plays, 14 points, really skewed the game.”

The Patriots needed to make a couple of more of their own big plays. Bourne could have given them that chance.

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