The New England Patriots’ quest to streamline their offensive operation in Year 1 after long-time coordinator Josh McDaniels did not go as planned, with the entire unit taking a step back in 2022 — both collectively and individually. One of the most notable examples of a player struggling to adapt to the new way of doing things was Kendrick Bourne.
One of the Patriots’ most productive players in 2021, after arriving on a three-year free agency deal, Bourne showed some encouraging chemistry with then-rookie quarterback Mac Jones. By the end of the year, he was one of Jones’ favorite targets and heavily involved as a starter-level wide receiver.
Fast forward one year, and Bourne’s situation has changed dramatically. He no longer played a key role in 2022, but was used primarily as a complementary piece.
Despite what was a challenging second year in New England, however, Bourne has no desire to leave.
“I definitely want to be back here,” he told MassLive’s Mark Daniels following Sunday’s season finale in Buffalo. “I like it here. I love it here. This is a team locker room, man. It’s not about one player. It’s not about two players. It’s about the whole team. I think the Patriots do a good job of making that known and making that understood. I’m a good role guy. I would love to be, and I am going to be, back.”
Bourne did appear in 16 of a possible 17 games during the 2022 regular season, but served primarily as a third, fourth or even fifth option at times. As a result of this usage, his numbers took a hit as well.
He finished the regular season with fewer targets (70 to 48), catches (55 to 35), yards (800 to 434) and touchdowns (5 to 1), while also seeing limited opportunities as a ball-carrier. When healthy, he was on the field for 44 percent of offensive snaps — down from 52 the previous season.
“Not trying to create any problems or anything like that,” he said. “That’s just how football goes for many players. You have ups and downs. It’s all about how you respond. I’m trying to respond the best way I can in a positive way. Just work and not really talk too much.”
Bourne’s issues last season extended beyond a lack of opportunities. He also reportedly had a harder time picking up that streamlined system, was tossed from a joint training camp practice with Carolina for fighting, and was sent home prior to a preseason contest later that same week after arriving late to a pre-game meeting.
Add it all up, and it is fair to label Bourne’s 2022 campaign a disappointment. However, it looks like he does not fully agree with that assessment.
“It’s about just coming in and working and trying to be better each year,” he said. “Stats didn’t say I got better, but I believe mentally, physically and spiritually I got better. The stats don’t always say that but I’ve grown as a man just going through ups and downs.”
His growth also did show up on the stat sheet, eventually. Roughly half of his offensive production — 18 of 41 touches and 239 of 473 yards from scrimmage — came over the final five games of the season.
Whether that is a sign of things to come will be seen. But Bourne appears to be willing to build on it, and his tough 2022 season as a whole.