TAMPA, Fla., — The pressure is on 49ers wide receiver Kendrick Bourne to step up in place of Pierre Garçon and Marquise Goodwin this weekend.
Bourne has been the go-to stand-in at every receiver spot this season. Goodwin, Trent Taylor, Dante Pettis and Garçon all sat out games with injuries, and Bourne was the one to take their place, no matter the role.
After a slow start to his rookie year, and a heart-to-heart talk with 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan about keeping his focus, Bourne improved his game. He has continued to progress in his sophomore season -- not only in his stats but in learning the different receiver roles of the offense.
In 2017, Bourne caught 16 of his 34 targets for 257 yards -- a 47.1 percent catch rate. He held on to 23 of his 37 targets for 230 yards through the first 10 games this season, giving him a 62.2 percent rate. Three of those receptions were touchdowns.
Following the 49ers' loss to the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 4, Shanahan praised Bourne’s efforts in taking over for Pettis, who was injured early in the first quarter.
“It’s a challenge for any receiver to be moved around a ton in games,” Shanahan said then. ”It does put a lot of pressure on them, so you would always like to make it easier for guys.
“But I was very impressed with him last week for stepping up and doing that when he wasn’t preparing all week to do that. So, he showed he had the ability to do that last week, and if need be this week, he’s definitely more prepared for it. I expect him to do the same, if not better.”
Eight weeks later, Shanahan discussed Bourne’s continued progress.
"I thought it took a little bit for KB to come on last year,” Shanahan said. “I thought he finished the second half of the season very well. I don’t think he’s taken a step back.
“He’s gotten more opportunities this year through injuries, just like he did last year. When he has gotten those opportunities, he’s taken advantage of them. I think he’s going in the right direction. I’ve been happy with KB.”
[RELATED: Four 49ers players to watch Sunday vs. Bucs]
Bourne spent his college career under the radar at Eastern Washington University, with then-teammate and current Los Angeles Rams receiver Cooper Kupp holding the spotlight. Over three seasons, Bourne caught 132 passes for 1,929 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Being a reliable target in the red zone, where the 49ers' offense has struggled, is an important part of Bourne’s game.
“He’s got some size to him, but he’s got hands,” Shanahan said. “I think down there, people talk about size being a huge advantage down there because places are smaller, or the windows are smaller, but it’s not just height. It’s strength and having the hand-eye [coordination] to attack the ball.
“You just need a little bit of separation. You’ve got to be able to get your feet under you and be balanced. He’s got size down there, he’s got aggressive hands and he’s not afraid to get hit.”