Led by rookie quarterback Mac Jones, the New England Patriots’ passing offense had more ups than downs during the 2021 season. But even though the unit finished the year ranked eighth in scoring (25.9), ninth in DVOA (24.8%) and tenth in EPA per dropback (0.136), it lacked consistency and at times appeared hesitant to take off Jones’ training wheels.
Nonetheless, the Patriots can feel good about where they are headed coming off what was the first year for their new-look offense. Sure, the group has experienced some turnover and will continue to do so during the offseason — coordinator Josh McDaniels and other assistants left to join the Las Vegas Raiders; multiple players are headed for free agency — but the foundation is in place.
The most important pillar of that foundation is Mac Jones, but he is not the only one. It appears wide receiver Kendrick Bourne also will continue to play an important role moving forward, even if the Patriots upgrade their wide receiver group in free agency or, more likely, the draft.
Jones and Bourne, after all, were one of the best quarterback-wide receiver duos in the NFL in 2021. The following graphic by Pro Football Focus’ Ryan Weisman illustrates this:
As can be seen, the Jones-Bourne combo was near the top of the league last year. While Bourne’s oppenness rate trailed some of the NFL’s top wideouts — a group led by Los Angeles Rams standout Cooper Kupp — his ability to generate yards after the catch and add expected points to New England’s output landed him and his QB as the third most productive duo in football in 2021.
In total, the pair connected for 59 pass completions on 71 catchable targets, gaining 775 yards and scoring seven touchdowns compared to one interception. Jones posted a passer rating of 139.1 when throwing in Bourne’s direction.
The chemistry between the two was apparent throughout the season, with the first-round rookie and the free agency addition developing a productive relationship. Heading into their second year together, the arrow is certainly pointing up for both of them.
“I’m just really blessed to be in a situation with him and starting this new era of New England football,” Bourne told 98.5 The Sports Hub during the regular season. “It’s the same, but it’s just new players. I’m just glad to be a part of it. We’re showing a lot of flashes and I’m just very appreciative of that, because you know it shows we have potential.”
Jones and Bourne did indeed show their potential multiple times during the 2021 season. Them making the famous second-year jump together would be great news for a Patriots passing offense that still has plenty of room for improvement despite a lot of encouraging moments over the past few months.