Coming off a disappointing 2020 season, the New England Patriots knew they had to make multiple upgrades across the board. One of the points of emphasis was a wide receiver position that struggled the previous year. As a result, it saw the addition of two unrestricted free agents.
While not on the same big-splash level as the signings at other positions — most prominently tight end — Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne have been solid players for the Patriots in 2021.
Agholor added a vertical element to the offense it had been missing the previous year, even though he still has some room for improvement as far as his connection with rookie quarterback Mac Jones is concerned. Bourne, on the other hand, has developed into a ultra-reliable member of the New England passing game.
The former San Francisco 49ers wideout has received plenty of praise for his performance and up-beat personality this season. The latest to sing his praises is offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
Speaking to reporters earlier this week, McDaniels pointed at Bourne’s energy in particular.
“He’s definitely been fun to work with, he obviously, as you know, has a tremendous amount of energy and that’s all the time,” he said. “He’s like a light switch that never goes out. It’s fun to be around him and coach him fun, to be around him at walk-throughs, in meetings and games. You always feel like he’s ready to help the team win.”
“Just having that energy, that’s the kind of guy I am,” Bourne said in response to McDaniels. “That’s just who I am. I come out to practice like that every day. I know he appreciates it, I know my teammates appreciate it. Just going to keep it going because good energy can flow to through the team, it can flow from one person and then flow into the whole team. Just being one of those guys helps the team as an overall group.”
This approach has served Bourne well. Through 16 games this season, he has caught 52 passes for 776 yards and five touchdowns. He also added 117 rushing yards on 11 carries and has even thrown a 25-yard touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor.
Regardless of what McDaniels and the Patriots’ coaches have asked him to do, he has delivered. One aspect in particular has caught the offensive coordinator’s eye.
“The thing that stands out to me about Kendrick is when he gets the ball it’s almost like he plays at a different speed,” McDaniels said. “He runs with an aggressive style and kind of a recklessness that you love to see in a player as long as he takes care of the ball. That’s something that he’s done better and better as the years gone on.
“As many times as you can get it to him and let him have some space to work, those usually end up as positive plays for the Patriots.”
As for Bourne, he shared his mindset on Wednesday.
“Definitely, when I catch the ball I’m trying to get into the defense. Of course, get as much yards as I can before the defense can get there,” the 26-year-old said. “Fastest way to get into defenses is to get vertical, so that’s kind of my mindset.”
Bourne has done that quite a few times this regular season. In fact, he is having a career year: his number of catches and receiving yards have surpassed his best seasons in San Francisco, while he needs only one more touchdown to break a tie with his 2019 campaign.
Most importantly, though, Bourne has had an active hand in the Patriots returning to the playoffs again after a one-year absence. The investment — New England signed him to a three-year contract worth $15 million — has so far paid off for both sides.
It is therefore no surprise to hear Bourne already set some lofty goals for his future in New England: he wants to be a part of a successful Patriots organization for quite some time.
“Just the growth is what I’m most happy about for myself and a lot of my teammates that I’ve seen, new guys here that have adapted to the coaching here and I think that’s the most awesome thing,” Bourne said. “Just winning as a whole is always good, to be able to play football the way we want to play and grow that way, it’s awesome. Hopefully, I’m a part of it for a long time.”