It was hard to be sure how the Patriots 2021 offseason would all come together on the field. After an influx of free agents and rookies that would make an immediate impact, the answer is now clear as the Patriots have bounced back after missing the playoffs in 2020 to secure a post-season berth in 2021.
Kendrick Bourne has been a big part of the turnaround. A somewhat unheralded signing at the time when he joined the Patriots on a three-year deal, Bourne has quickly assimilated into the New England offense, setting a career-high in catches through the usual 16 games.
"Everybody has bought in as a crew, especially the new guys. We all feed off each other," said Bourne on Wednesday. "Just working together, being good teammates has helped everybody. If you run from anything coaches are trying to teach you it won't work."
The career-high in catches doesn't tell the whole story, as Bourne's infectious personality has also helped transform the locker room dynamic. On the field, Bourne has even thrown a touchdown as Josh McDaniels has put all of his skills to use.
"The thing that stands out to me about Kendrick is when he gets the ball it's almost like he plays at a different speed," said McDaniels this week. "He runs with an aggressive style and kind of a recklessness that you love to see in a player as long as he takes care of the ball. That's something that he's done better and better as the years gone on.
"As many times as you can get it to him and let him have some space to work, those usually end up as positive plays for the Patriots."
"When I catch the ball I'm definitely trying to get into the defense, of course get as much yardage as I can before the defense can get there," said Bourne. "Fastest way to get into defenses is to get vertical."
|2017 - SF
|2018 - SF
|2019 - SF
|2020 - SF
|2021 - NE
While Bourne has caught on quickly with the offense, his positivity has been a constant throughout the long season and is something appreciated by his coaches.
"He's definitely been fun to work with, he obviously, as you know, has a tremendous amount of energy and that's all the time," said McDaniels. "He's like a light switch that never goes out. It's fun to be around him and coach him fun, to be around him at walk-throughs, in meetings and games. You always feel like he's ready to help the team win."
"Just the growth is what I'm most happy about for myself and a lot of my teammates that I've seen, new guys here that have adapted to the coaching here and I think that's the most awesome thing," said Bourne. "Just winning as a whole is always good, to be able to play football the way we want to play and grow that way, it's awesome. Hopefully, I'm a part of it for a long time."
Practice & Injury Report
With rain in the forecast and a warm-weather game on tap in Florida this weekend, the Patriots moved practice inside the Socios.com Field House on Wednesday. There was some good news, as Nelson Agholor, who suffered a concussion against the Colts and hasn't practiced since was present for the opening warm-up period. Ronnie Perkins also returned after landing on Injured Reserve for three weeks. The only new unaccounted absence was safety Kyle Dugger, who was listed as a non-participant because of a hand injury.
The team's Reserve/COVID-19 list includes Myles Bryant, Yodny Cajuste and practice squad player Will Sherman.
Quotes of Note
Dont'a Hightower on how the team has changed since the Week 1 matchup against Miami:
"I would just say we've grown each week. Obviously, you know what you want to be and you work really hard and stuff but sometimes there are setbacks, there's adversity. We definitely had that. Just all in all I would just say we've grown together as a team, just kind of want to continue on the road we're on."
Bill Belichick on the Dolphins:
"It's been impressive watching the Dolphins here. They'd won seven of the last eight. Generally, played really good football. Tennessee wasn't their best game, but overall, this has been a pretty impressive stretch. They played solid in all three phases of the game, getting contributions from everybody. Offensively: the running game, passing game, receivers, tight ends, backs, quarterback. They're pretty healthy. The offensive line has been consistent. Defensively, big front, mix in multiple coverages, change the looks around there, make it hard on the offense, make it hard on the quarterback and the offensive line, in terms of identifying what they do."