The New England Patriots need at least one of their veteran wide receivers to step up during the 2023 NFL season and make a consistently strong impact each week.
Jakobi Meyers was the Patriots' most reliable wideout over the last couple years, but he took his talents to the Las Vegas Raiders as a free agent back in March.
There are a few intriguing candidates in the group, which includes Kendrick Bourne, DeVante Parker and JuJu Smith-Schuster. The player with the best chance of enjoying a stellar season is Bourne.
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The 28-year-old wideout had a solid debut season with the Patriots in 2021 when he tallied 55 receptions for 800 yards and five touchdowns. He didn't produce much last season -- 35 receptions for 434 yards and one touchdown -- but his role and usage in Matt Patricia's offense also was surprisingly lackluster.
The Patriots are expecting a bounce-back campaign from Bourne in 2023, and his head coach is very much looking forward to watching it all unfold.
“I’m very excited to see him play this year,” Bill Belichick told WEEI's "The Greg Hill Show" on Monday morning. “He’s put in the work, and looks like he’s definitely ready to go.”
What has Belichick liked about Bourne over the offseason and training camp? Quite a few things, actually.
“He’s been healthy, he’s been on the field, he’s worked hard. He’s gotten very consistent in his route-running, his assignments, anticipation, catching the ball,” Belichick said. “He’s really had a really good spring and a really good training camp.”
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Bourne has looked great in camp and he made the most of his preseason reps. His role is expected to be much more prominent with new offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien running the show.
The veteran wideout also is entering the final year of his contract, so there's the added motivation of showcasing his talents in the hopes of getting a raise next offseason.
Bourne said last week that he appreciated Belichick sticking with him last season amid his struggles, and it sounds like he's ready to repay his coach with a fantastic 2023.