The pads come on for the first time in 2021 training camp this week. There’s a boatload of players I can’t wait to see perform for real (kinda) after a week in shorts and helmets.
Near the top of the list? Wide receiver Kendrick Bourne. While Nelson Agholor’s had most of the attention-grabbing downfield grabs, Bourne’s been very steady through the first week of camp and -- to these eyes -- seems to have a very natural bond with Mac Jones already.
The play that started me on the road to that assessment came on the first day of camp when Jones, during a red zone rep, browsed, browsed, browsed then threw at the last moment a perfectly-placed ball to the back left pylon that Bourne caught on a dead run before going out of bounds.
Bourne was fired up after the play, spiking the ball and doing a minor dance. I asked Bourne this week whether that play stood out to him as well.
“I definitely was impressed with that throw,” said Bourne on Monday. “I told him after, 'I don’t know how you got it in that window.' But you know, the league is about a little bit of separation. We’re not going to always beat them by five yards. It’s half a yard. Maybe less than a yard. So for him to have that kind of accuracy, it’s impressive, man. I’m excited to see him grow each day.”
Bourne’s fit in the Patriots offense is going to be interesting to watch unfold. With the two tight ends -- Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry -- working the seams and underneath most likely and Agholor on the outside as their speed guy, Bourne and Jakobi Meyers are a bit similar in style. Bourne is leaner and faster; Meyers excels as a route-runner and has never-fail hands.
This week, with cornerbacks allowed to put hands on receivers and get to jamming and thudding a little bit more, camp enters a new phase. Bourne wants to make sure he’s as available this week as he was when the pads aren’t on.
Asked specifically about Jones and the chemistry they are developing, Bourne said, "My job is to get open for him. So if he sees me, the faster I get open, the easier it is for him to hit me. His decision-making is pretty up to par."