FOXBORO — The unsolved mystery as to why New England Patriots wide receiver Kendrick Bourne is still playing a reduced number of snaps compared to last season continues.
After a remarkable first season in which he was New England's second-leading receiver in catches (55), yards (800), and touchdowns (five), Bourne finds himself buried on the depth chart of a 1-2 team in need of any spark it can get.
With Jakobi Meyers out with an injury, it seemed sensible that this would be the week Bourne finally saw regular snaps on offense.
So what gives?
During Sunday’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens Bourne played only 18 offensive snaps, which was the least among Patriots wide receivers. In fact on the season, Bourne ranks ninth among Patriots skill players in snaps played this season with just 44.
Meanwhile, signed-off-the-practice-squad Lil’Jordan Humphrey has played 54 snaps.
Granted the 24-year-old caught on quickly in training camp, playing in all three preseason games, and hauling in a team-high 13 catches for 140 yards and a touchdown. Is that really enough to leap-frog Bourne in the regular season?
Bill Belichick was asked why Bourne didn’t play more against the Ravens.
“We played all our skill players yesterday," the coach said. "They all played quite a bit.”
Belichick explained why he played Humphrey so much.
“It’s a decision on the type of formations, the plays you’re running, they’re running,” Belichick said. “It was a lot of loaded, heavy boxes from the Ravens. That involves some things in the running game. He’s kind of a cross between 11 personnel and 12 personnel. It gives us a little bit of both when he’s on the field.”
Belichick praised Humphrey for his toughness and versatility earlier in the week while admitting he doesn’t necessarily fit the mold for a particular position.
His hustle on special teams, size, and skill set are helping him earn playing time. At 6-4, 225 pounds, he certainly is a big receiver. Learning how to apply that size within the Patriots’ personnel scheme is helping him grow as a player.
“It’s cool. You get to learn the game more so you’re not one-dimensional,” Humphrey said. “You get to add value to yourself. And you’re playing football, so you really enjoy it. It is what it is. You do whatever you can to help the team.”
But, it’s still unclear why Bourne is spending so much time on the bench.
“Yeah, the coaches got the plan,” Bourne said. “I think it works. I can’t say this or that. I’m definitely happy with what I got to do. I would love to play more, but I gotta just keep proving it to the coaches. Game by game. Every time I go in, just making the plays that come so I can try to go out there more.”
And ultimately, it wasn’t the receivers that were the big problem against Baltimore. In fact, DeVante Parker had his coming-out party catching five balls for 156 yards. Even Bourne made a few plays in his limited snaps, adding four catches for 58 yards.
“I think all of our receivers were productive in the roles we asked them to be in. It’s really the bad plays we have to eliminate,” said Belichick.
The Patriots are likely to be without starting quarterback Mac Jones for the foreseeable future after he suffered a high ankle sprain, which is bad news for the offense.
So will that lead to Bourne earning more snaps next Sunday against Aaron Rodgers and his Green Bay Packers? Whether it's Brian Hoyer or Bailey Zappe at quarterback, New England is going to need all the help they can get to keep up with Green Bay's offense.
You can follow Kevin Tame Jr. on Twitter @Kevin_Tame
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