Kendrick Bourne was the New England Patriots’ most explosive pass-catcher last season, ut he could be buried on the depth chart to open the 2022 campaign.
Following a disappointingly unproductive training camp for Bourne that featured a practice ejection and a surprise preseason benching, Patriots wide receivers coach Troy Brown suggested the 27-year-old could have a less prominent role than he had a year ago.
“Obviously, he hasn’t had the type of offseason that he had last year, but he’s been working at it just like everybody else,” Brown said Monday in a video conference. “He’s coming along, and he’s getting more and more reps as the camp goes on here. As we go into the first game here, he’s getting more and more reps. We’re going to play the guys who deserve to play.”
Of the Patriots’ four veteran wideouts, Bourne saw by far the fewest targets and receptions in competitive team drills this summer, lagging behind Jakobi Meyers, Nelson Agholor and DeVante Parker. Bourne saw reps with the second-team offense in some practices, and though he closed camp with a few encouraging outings against the Las Vegas Raiders, he was viewed as a possible trade candidate during the leadup to cutdown day.
It was not the summer fans were expecting from Bourne, who posted career-best numbers in 2021 (55 catches, 800 yards, five touchdowns) while ranking near the top of the NFL in yards per target and catch rate.
“I think he’s been making some plays here and there,” Brown said. “But for the most part, he’s just been working as hard as the other guys have been working. We’ve had some other guys that have made some plays throughout the course of camp here, and they’re all out there competing and fighting. There’s no named person that’s going to be out there playing more than another person. It’s just going to be whoever earns the right to go out there and play are going to be the guys who play for us on Sundays.”
Meyers and Parker project as the Patriots’ starting receivers, and Agholor performed much better in camp than he did during his disappointing debut season in New England. Bourne, then, could begin the season as the No. 4 wideout. Promising rookie Tyquan Thornton won’t be available until Week 5 at the earliest as he recovers from a broken clavicle.
Bourne himself acknowledged this possibility, saying in mid-August: “Whatever they ask of me, just go do it. If I’ve got to be on the bench, I’ll be on the bench. Whatever it needs to be.”
Brown said Bourne has “not done anything wrong or bad or anything like that.”
“It’s just guys have been trying to get the same amount of reps that we give to all these guys,” the coach said. “Injuries happen, things happen, so some guys don’t get reps and some guys do. That’s just a part of the game, and like I tell these guys every week, take advantage of every rep that you get and make it count for something.”
The Patriots will open the regular season this Sunday against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium.