The New England Patriots’ offense had an inconsistent 2021 season under first-year starting quarterback Mac Jones, but there were plenty of encouraging moments as well. Jones, after all, was not the only new addition to leave his mark on the unit and help it bounce back after what was a disappointing 2020 campaign.
Wide receiver Kendrick Bourne and running back Rhamondre Stevenson also deserve praise for their contributions. In fact, the two were among the most explosive players in all of football last year: both Bourne and Stevenson rank near the top of the list in big plays created at their respective position groups for the 2021 season.
A new analysis published by USA Today’s Marcus Mosher shows that Bourne ranked fifth among all wideouts with a big-play rate of 19.5 percent:
Bourne had a combined 16 plays qualifying for big play status: he had 10 receptions of more than 20 yards as well as six runs gaining more than 10. That means that almost one fifth of his 82 total opportunities — i.e. passing targets plus rushing attempts — during the regular season went for big plays.
For comparison, fellow Patriots receivers Nelson Agholor and Jakobi Meyers had a big play rate of “only” 13.4 (33rd) and 9.4 percent (72nd). New England offseason trade acquisition DeVante Parker registered a big play on 9.6 percent of his looks (69th).
Bourne, 26, joined the team on a three-year, $15 million free agency contract last offseason. He was one of the most productive players on the Patriots’ offense and built a quick rapport with Mac Jones. Heading into his second year in the system, the expectation is that he will continue to play a sizable role within New England’s attack both as a receiver and part-time ball-carrier.
Stevenson, meanwhile, ranked even higher compared to his position group:
A fourth-round draft pick by the Patriots last year, Stevenson posted an impressive big play rate of 15 percent: he had 20 runs that gained more than 10 yards and also caught a pair of passes exceeding 20 — all while touching the football 147 times. He was a bit hit-or-miss at times during his rookie campaign, but all in all the Oklahoma product had a strong first season with the Patriots.
Like Bourne, his development in Year 2 will be fascinating to watch. While he is again expected to share early-down touches with Damien Harris, he should be able to see regular opportunities and play prominent role within New England’s offensive attack.
As for Harris, he looked good himself as far as generating big plays is concerned: he ranked 18th in the NFL in that category, having 24 qualifying plays on 220 touches for a rate of 10.9 percent.
New England did add more weapons to Mac Jones’ arsenal this offseason, but those who were already under contract in 2021 should not be forgotten about either. The numbers make this quite obvious.