After having a breakout first season with the New England Patriots in 2021, putting up 800 yards and five touchdowns, Kendrick Bourne has been unbelievably quiet in his 2022 campaign until his career day against the Cincinnati Bengals. On Christmas Eve, Bourne recorded a career-high 100 yards along with an impressive toe-tap touchdown in the back of the endzone. Bourne also made two spectacular catches, one on the sideline where he tapped his feet as his body was contorting to make the catch, and another being a contested catch with him wrestling the ball away from two Bengals defenders.
Fans have been scratching their heads as to why one of the more explosive offensive playmakers of last year has been a non-factor through most of this season, with Bourne recording just 273 yards and no touchdowns before the Bengals game. Bourne has had a decently productive NFL career, tallying nearly 3,000 yards and 17 touchdowns in his six seasons.
Bourne was acquired by New England in the 2020-2021 offseason in free agency from the San Francisco 49ers in a massive offseason spending spree. Bourne was signed to a three-year $15 million deal after spending four years in San Francisco. Bourne joined the 49ers as an undrafted free agent in 2017 out of Eastern Washington University, where he was part of a dynamic receiving duo alongside all-pro Cooper Kupp.
Before going to Eastern Washington, Bourne attended Benson Tech High School in Portland, Oregon where he played as a freshman and junior. Bourne then transferred to Milwaukie Arts Academy, a Charter School, in his senior year. MAA was on the campus of Milwaukie High School, where Bourne would play his last season of high school football, where he earned honors such as second team 5A All-State selection, playing in the Les Schwab all-star football game, where he scored a touchdown, he was also selected as a first team All-Northwest Oregon Conference player as a wide receiver and a second team selection as a safety.
At Eastern Washington, Bourne earned his keep in his freshman season as a productive backup, catching a couple touchdowns along with a handful of big catches, making his way into the starting lineup the following season. Bourne would play all 14 games and start in nine in his second year where he excelled, In his first start in his sophomore season, Bourne put up 114 yards and a touchdown, proving that he rightfully earned his opportunity. In his 2016 senior season, he was named third team All-American and second team All-Big Sky Conference, putting up 1,201 yards and seven touchdowns. Bourne recorded 3,130 yards and 27 touchdowns in his EWU career, he also had 39 consecutive career games with at least one catch. Bourne’s head coach at EWU, Beau Baldwin had glowing things to say about him in an interview with ESPN.
“He’s kind of that receiver that can give you a little of everything, he can take a screen or a short one and rack it, and he can go downfield and make the big play,” said Baldwin.
Bourne’s receiver coach, Nick Edwards, took it a step further, saying “Kendrick is the most underrated receiver I have coached. His yards-after-catch rank among the best in the country in any college division.”
There is no doubt that Bourne is a dynamic receiver, although he makes most of his yardage in the middle of the field and after the catch, he can also go outside as well as running out of the backfield on jet sweeps and end arounds. Bourne’s most impressive on field skills consist of making contested catches when needed, having a great burst/second gear, twitchiness to make defenders miss, and the ability to break tackles. Although Bourne is more of a slim build, standing at 6’1 and weighing 190 pounds, he is deceivingly strong and can bounce off tackles.
With the exception of Jakobi Meyers, Bourne was one of Mac Jones’ most reliable targets last year, especially as the season wore on. In San Francisco, Bourne proved to be a great number two/three compliment to superstar Deebo Samuel, and he has been accustomed to this role since college, being the complimentary piece to Cooper Kupp.
“Being behind a guy like Cooper Kupp, I think it humbled me in a way, it made me understand my role and not being big-headed about anything, playing as a team. I just think it happened for a reason, I was put at Eastern for a reason, not to be the number one guy, I just take advantage of the opportunity when it comes, when the ball is thrown to me I just know I have to catch the ball, just because if I don’t catch the ball it’s going to go to this other guy. I know once I get the ball thrown to me, I have to come up and show what I can do, and it will be the same in the NFL,” said Bourne.
Although Bourne has been used to not being the number one guy, In New England last year, he certainly looked like he could be a number one receiver.
There has been a lot about New England’s offense that has been confusing, and among some of the most confusing things, especially after this past game, is the fact that Bourne has not been utilized nearly as much as last season. Although there were some disciplinary issues that arose with Bourne in camp and early in the season, that does not explain the prolonged lack of production from him.
With the Patriots hosting a divisional rival in the Miami Dolphins on New Years Day, and their playoff hopes becoming more and more bleak, they will need a big surge from their offense. Players like Bourne will need to become more involved than they have been so far this season, with disappointing numbers in the passing game. This game is obviously a must win, and hopefully Bourne can build on what he did on Christmas Eve in order to aid his team toward a victory.
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