Are the Patriots and Kendrick Bourne at a standstill?

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - NOVEMBER 28: Kendrick Bourne #84 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - NOVEMBER 28: Kendrick Bourne #84 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /

It has been a confusing start to the season for Kendrick Bourne and the Patriots, after having a memorable first year with the team in 2021. Coming into this season, it was assumed the receiver would become an even bigger part of the offense. But through three games so far, that is yet to be seen.

How did the Patriots and Kendrick Bourne get to this point?

The Patriots had a long list of receivers to work with throughout the summer into preseason practices and games. As one of their weakest points on the team, daily reports about their performances were in high demand.  With practices continuing and details were revealed, little mention of Bourne’s activities became increasingly apparent.

It was made clear as the team began introducing a new playbook and scheme that the offense appeared to struggle with catching on. It was the most discussed topic in New England for several weeks. But through those struggles, many receivers were shining with consistent standout moments in each practice, leaving many to wonder why last year’s WR2 seemed absent.

As the Patriots players were working through the growing pains of a changing offense, multiple reports and rumors started to circulate regarding Bourne’s stance on the team and possible issues with coaching. It was widely speculated that he was essentially “in the doghouse” for being late to a preseason game, thus getting on the bad side of newly appointed but not titled offensive coordinator, Matt Patricia.

It made sense, particularly knowing the no-tolerance policy the Patriots have been known to have. And seeing that Bourne was not present at the final preseason game against the Raiders, it was assumed he was “punished” for being tardy.

At the time, Bill Belichick provided little clarity on the entire situation and since then, has remained tight-lipped. But the story doesn’t end there, as the questionable benching of one of the team’s best receivers has continued into the regular season.

The first game of the year against the Dolphins was hoped to be a one-time thing. The glaring issues the offense displayed in the preseason were the focal point once again, with Mac Jones having no protection from his offensive line and receivers struggling to make positive plays.

Fans were begging to see Bourne be involved, but wouldn’t see that happen until nearly the end of the fourth quarter. The Patriots were down 20-7 with over five minutes left in the game when Jones threw deep downfield to Bourne for a 41-yard reception. Despite the immediate impact, he would only be on the field for one more offensive snap.

Bourne’s lack of involvement became front-page news in Boston, with many questioning why he would be sitting on the sideline as they struggled to move the ball. Knowing what Bourne can bring to an offense made the decision to keep him off the field even more puzzling and there was hope his involvement would dramatically increase in the weeks that followed.

Although he would only make two catches for 16 yards in their win against the Steelers, Bourne’s on-field presence was much better than the week prior. His snap count significantly rose from just two in week one to 24 in this game. And even though wasn’t quite what everyone was hoping for, it was certainly a move in the right direction.

With another big game ahead in week three against the Ravens, the Patriots had a tough test ahead of them once again. Further involving Bourne made the most sense for this game, as he is one of the more reliable and constant playmakers on the offense. He saw more passes his way, totaling 4/5 for 58 yards. But his on-field time took a step backward, only being on the field for 18 offensive snaps.

Other than the loss dominating the news surrounding the team, many have tried to make sense of Bourne’s lack of involvement in now three games. Despite Jones’ top target Jakobi Meyers’ absence from injury, the offense looked much more cohesive overall. DeVante Parker finally had a breakout game with the Patriots, proving why Belichick chose to trade for him. And the team was within reach of a win before their mistakes took control of the game.

But what is going on with Bourne? Why was he not implemented more? Will that change at some point this year?

Why are we not seeing Kendrick Bourne more on the field?

It’s fair to assume something is going on behind closed doors that’s directly impacting Bourne’s limited presence. Knowing the Patriots’ organization from top to bottom is generally not forthcoming with answers, it’s likely the real reason will never be shared.

Many reporters who were present for preseason practices believe Bourne’s performance throughout the summer is the simple answer for what has transpired so far. But it’s a bit hard to believe that such a productive member of the team could’ve slid down from WR2 to WR4 in just one off-season.

  1. When thinking of an explanation there are a few possibilities to consider; Josh McDaniels and Kendrick Bourne reportedly clicked right away. Coming from a Shanahan offense to the Patriots, Bourne thrived in what McDaniels would draw up. Now that the former offensive coordinator is gone, and Bourne has allegedly taken issue with the offense’s new direction, he may just not be thriving with the changes that are being set forth.
  2. The reported conflict with Matt Patricia seems like a possibility as well. It is widely known that Patricia may be behind the mysterious benching of Malcolm Butler in Super Bowl 52. Although the secret behind why the cornerback was not available to play is still unclear, many of the rumors since then have involved an issue between him and Patricia as the explanation.
  3. With a variety of receivers on the team, Bourne is competing for time on the field. Despite the assumption he’s seeing less time because of Lil’Jordan Humphrey’s elevation to the 53-man roster, Bourne is likely competing more with Nelson Agholor. Appearing more like a tight end and possessing the skills of one as well, Humphrey is used on the offense more for blocking purposes than a true receiver, hence the more snap counts. Agholor and Bourne are similar in style of play and build, making it more likely the two are competing for a coveted spot atop the receiving depth chart.

No matter the reason, Bourne has proven he deserves to be participating more in games. Not only has he proven that, but the offense needs what he can do on the field.

Through the three games played so far, the offense continues to work through hiccups they dealt with in practices. In the limited catches Bourne has had, he instantly boosted the offense and helped move the ball down the field. And last week he helped put the team in a position to kick a field goal to give them the lead heading into halftime.

With bigger challenges ahead now with Mac Jones likely missing time due to an ankle sprain, now is the time to involve Bourne more every week. If Belichick wants to see progress and success offensively, whatever the situation is that is keeping one of his best receivers sidelined will need to be figured out immediately.