Other than the typical focus on the Patriots' receiving corps ahead of the 2023 season, there has also been a lot of attention toward Kendrick Bourne and how he may bounce back from a down year last season.
He was an underrated signing during the spending spree of free agency two years ago, with not much belief that he would become an impact player within the new-age Patriots offense. But he went on to have the best season of his career and only trailed apparent WR1 Jakobi Meyers in catches and totaled just 66 yards less on the year.
It looked like Bourne would be a sneaky good signing and one of the better additions to the offense in recent seasons until the Matt Patricia experiment came into play the following offseason.
Besides all the ways Patricia's inexperience impacted Mac Jones and the offense in totality, Bourne was probably second in line behind the quarterback as the player most negatively affected.
It began in the spring with rumors flying about Bourne and Patricia not seeing eye to eye and escalated into what most were referring to as the wide receiver being placed in the coach's doghouse.
And it essentially continued downhill from there.
Despite becoming an integral part of the team's offensive success the season before, Bourne was barely seeing any time on the field. After weeks of being kept on the sideline, questions began to arise regarding his status with the team and why he wasn't being incorporated.
Belichick and Patricia downplayed the situation, suggesting nothing hindered Bourne's game-day utilization. But actions speak louder than words, and seeing him consistently on the bench spoke volumes about how they viewed him throughout the year.
Whether or not it was a result of the media and fans' pressure, there were a few games where Bourne was finally given the opportunity to be involved in the game. His explosive nature was immediately impactful, and for a struggling offense, it was much needed.
But that's all we saw for the rest of the season. He was rarely on the field, and his usage was never increased to the point of even Bourne expressing his frustration with it all to the media.
Fast forward to the current offseason, dramatic changes were made to the offensive coaching staff, including replacing Patricia with Bill O'Brien and Adrian Klemm. Several players have spoken highly of the changes, including Bourne, who recently spoke about how much more fun he's having in training camp this year.
"It’s just being anything (O’Brien) wants me to be. I feel like I can do a lot. They’ve had me do a lot so far, and I’m enjoying it. I’m in a place of having fun. It’s the best feeling."
It's a drastic difference compared to what Bourne said throughout the 2022 season and even how he spoke about his down year just a few weeks ago.
It's clear the changes have been met with positive reactions, and the entire offense is benefitting from the new coaching, especially Bourne. So much so that even Belichick commented on how well he's looked since returning to camp this summer.
"KB has had a real good offseason. Really good. (He’s been) one of our best."
Hopefully, we will see a resurgence of Bourne in the offense again, and the chemistry between him and Jones will be evident like it was two years ago.
Although he's been a bit absent in training camp so far, it's not time to be concerned about it yet. He's shown exactly what he can bring to an offense, and with the Patriots continuing to work through their struggles in hopes of establishing a new identity and becoming a competitive team again, Bourne's presence and usage should be prioritized.