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Will 2024 free agent Kendrick Bourne re-sign with the Patriots, as he recovers from a torn ACL?

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Tom Brady gives Pat McAfee his thoughts on Jerod Mayo

 

Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:

 

1. Bourne’s status: Wide receiver Kendrick Bourne was on his way to a career year when he tore his right ACL in the Patriots’ 31-17 loss to the Miami Dolphins on Oct. 29. He is determined to pick up where he left off — in more ways than one.

 

Bourne describes himself as ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation, as he has a physical therapist living with him in Portland, Oregon, to aid in his recovery.

 

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He said he projects to be ready for the 2024 season opener, but whether he’ll be in a Patriots uniform is somewhat out of his control. Bourne is one of the team’s 18 players scheduled for unrestricted free agency.

 

“I want to come back [to New England]. That is a goal of mine. I love being a Patriot — it’s a great environment for a person like me,” Bourne told ESPN. “Being a Patriot helped me grow into the player I am today. I’m thankful for the organization, but you never know. I’ve been in free agency before and I didn’t know what would happen. And I don’t know now.”

 

In 2023, Patriots receiver Kendrick Bourne had 37 catches for 406 yards and four touchdowns in eight games before suffering a torn right ACL. Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire

Bourne’s first foray into free agency came after the 2020 season. He had spent the first four years of his career with the San Francisco 49ers, beating the odds as an undrafted free agent out of Eastern Washington, before landing a three-year deal with the Patriots with a base value of $15 million and maximum value of $22.5 million.

 

His career took off under the tutelage of then-offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, and what unfolded since helped his affinity for the Patriots grow.

 

“In 2021, I had my best year [55 receptions, 800 yards, 5 TDs]. In 2022, I struggled. Then last year I was on my way to having my best year and made a lot of changes in my life — I became a better man, a better football player, being married, just my mindset. The Patriots were a big part of that and I don’t ever want to take that for granted,” he said.

 

“These last two years were rebuilding, so I don’t want to miss the time when you may be coming back, the good wave. It was rough but you never know where it could go. I feel like something good is coming in that building and I want to be part of it.”

 

The 28-year-old Bourne hopes to show the Patriots, and the league’s other 31 teams, that he’s made impressive strides in his recovery. He said he’s in the fifth week since undergoing surgery and that he was told he should be able to start running around the 10-to-12-week mark.

 

One of his immediate goals is strengthening his quadriceps and legs to support the knee, and he credits his agent, Henry Organ of Disruptive Sports Agency, for the idea of having physical therapist Alex Barlow live with him during this critical period.

 

In the morning, they have mostly worked on full extension of the knee, range of motion, hip flexibility and soft-tissue stretching. In the afternoon, Bourne focuses more on conditioning, such as riding a stationary bicycle.

 

“I was in the best shape of my life and the knee slowed me down a lot,” he said. “It’s annoying to have someone always on me and bugging me, but I know what I need to get back to where I was when I got hurt. I’m embracing it now.

 

“Some days I don’t want to do it. Some days it’s hard. But every day it counts. I know if I attack it head-on, I can have a successful recovery. I’m doing great.”

 

2. Wolf’s presence: The Patriots haven’t named a general manager since parting ways last month with Bill Belichick after 24 seasons. While a strong contingent of the Patriots’ personnel staff was on the road last week at the Senior Bowl and Shrine Bowl, director of scouting Eliot Wolf remained at Gillette Stadium. Sources said he was directly involved in the interview process with first-year head coach Jerod Mayo, which seems to indicate how Wolf’s responsibilities are evolving into more of those normally associated with a general manager. That was foreshadowed after Belichick’s departure.

 

3. Patriots = Packers: Wolf is the son of Pro Football Hall of Fame executive Ron Wolf and came up through the Packers’ personnel ranks from 2004 to 2017, at one point elevating to director of player personnel. His ascendance in New England highlights, from this viewpoint, how the Patriots are shifting toward more of a Packer-based structure, which places a greater emphasis on the evaluations of the personnel department than a head coach with final say (the model New England adopted for the past two decades-plus under Belichick). The Packers’ past two drafts look especially strong.

 

4. Cherry on Van Pelt: Je’Rod Cherry was part of three Super Bowl championship teams as a player in New England (2001 to 2004) and now serves as an analyst/sideline reporter for the Cleveland Browns Radio Network and ESPN Cleveland. Thus, he had a front-row seat to observe former Browns offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt, who was hired as the Patriots’ OC this week, the past four seasons.

 

Coaching style: “He is passionate about his job and comes across as a good overall human being. The Browns wanted to keep him and change his role [from QBs coach/offensive coordinator], so that was a sign they valued him.”

 

Lack of playcalling experience: “Outside of the one wild-card playoff game [in 2020], when he did a stellar job calling plays, it wasn’t a situation where he was in charge of playcalling. [Head coach] Kevin Stefanski is a really good playcaller and he handled that. But I’d say that whatever they were putting together [in 2023], they found a way to get it done with five different quarterbacks. Alex was part of that. You look at what the Patriots are going through at quarterback, trying to find one, you’d think having a guy who has worked with that many different skill sets is an asset. Alex has seen it all. Is lack of playcalling a concern? You could say that. But Andy Reid at one point in time watched Mike Holmgren. Jon Gruden too. Alex had a chance to observe Stefanski for four seasons and had input on what was being called.”

 

Offensive system: “Look for a lot of motion, operation out of the backfield to attack the edges, vertical passing game in which they want to stretch the defense. They like to get vertical and have chunk plays. I’ve seen some great playcalls with that staff; they do a great job scheming guys open.”

 

5. Dough boy: When Van Pelt was playing quarterback for the Buffalo Bills (1994 to 2003), he kept a Pillsbury Dough Boy doll in his locker — a playful acknowledgment of not having the most chiseled physique. Those who have worked with him say the self-depreciating gesture reflects someone who doesn’t take himself too seriously and is a big believer in team- and staff-wide chemistry.

 

6. Offensive staff: Three things to watch for as Van Pelt and the Patriots fill out their offensive coaching staff:

 

Andy Dickerson (Rams/Seahawks) has been targeted as a top offensive line coach, but they might have competition from the Browns, who interviewed Dickerson for Van Pelt’s old offensive coordinator job.

 

A former head coach with an offensive background is on the radar, in part to provide a sounding board to Mayo from the head-coaching perspective. Someone with a profile similar to Ben McAdoo, who at one point crossed paths with Van Pelt in Green Bay, could fit.

 

Former Patriots assistant Chad O’Shea (2009 to 2018), who has been the Browns’ receivers coach/passing game coordinator, is one of Van Pelt’s close friends.

 

7. Springer report: Jeremy Springer was officially hired as Patriots special teams coordinator on Thursday, and those familiar with him describe him as “high energy” and someone whose caring for his players stands out. The Patriots are banking on the 35-year-old Springer’s potential, as he has just two years of NFL coaching experience, as the Rams’ assistant special teams coach — and the Rams were last in the NFL in Rick Gosselin’s 2023 special teams rankings. The No. 32 ranking was due, in part, to a transition at kicker, a long-snapper injury and the Rams using more inexperienced players in the kicking game that contributed to inconsistent tackling (two punt returns allowed for touchdowns).

 

8. Bourne’s 49er roots: Bourne is pulling for the 49ers in Super Bowl LVIII. “I have some good friends over there and I love [coach] Kyle Shanahan — he gave me an opportunity my first year,” he said, adding that it still stings that Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs beat his 49ers team in Super Bowl LIV.

 

9. Did you know? — Part I: Since 1990, the Chiefs are just the sixth team to reach the Super Bowl without having a 1,000-yard rusher or a 1,000-yard receiver, as the 2018 Patriots were the last team to do so. The 2003 Patriots also were in that category.

 

10. Did you know — Part II: Chiefs running back Isiah Pacheco is set to become the first player at any position to start in the Super Bowl in each of his first two NFL seasons since left guard Joe Thuney did so for the Patriots in 2016 and 2017.

 

Sources: Raiders expected to hire Luke Getsy as offensive coordinator

Orlovsky: Raiders keeping Pierce a ‘no-brainer’ (1:47)

 

Paul Gutierrez, ESPN Staff Writer

Feb 4, 2024, 01:32 AM ET

HENDERSON, Nev. — The Las Vegas Raiders are expected to hire Luke Getsy as their next offensive coordinator, sources told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler late Saturday night. The report comes hours after former Arizona Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury removed himself from consideration.

 

Getsy, 39, fired by the Chicago Bears as offensive coordinator last month, was one of at least five candidates the Raiders interviewed for the vacant offensive playcaller position. Kingsbury, former Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt, Pittsburgh Steelers receivers coach Mike Sullivan and UCLA coach Chip Kelly, were among the others. Van Pelt was hired to be the New England Patriots offensive coordinator while Kingsbury has been linked to the vacant Washington Commanders offensive coordinator position.

 

In his reintroductory news conference last month, Raiders coach Antonio Pierce said he wanted a “minimum 24 points” out of a new offensive coordinator, after the Raiders averaged 19.5 points per game under former coach Josh McDaniels and interim offensive coordinator Bo Hardegree.

 

To average 24 points, the Raiders would need to score 408 points, a mark they have only hit three times since their 2002 Super Bowl season.

 

Pierce said an incoming offensive coordinator would have to be a teacher who can “adjust on the fly” during games.

 

“You’ve got to be able to run the football — play-action pass,” Pierce said. “What are the Raiders known for? The vertical passing game, right? We want to see the shots down the field. We want the explosive plays. That has to be a part of the creativity. You look at the shifts, the motions, all that stuff goes into it … just think of when [the] Raiders were playing really good football, and that’s going to be your offensive coordinator, hopefully, as we go forward.”

 

Getsy brings that run-heavy mentality that Pierce and new general manager Tom Telesco like. The Bears led the NFL in rushing in 2022 (177.3 yards per game) and finished second in 2023 (141.1).

 

That’s the good.

 

The bad? The Bears were last in passing offense in 2022 (130.5) and 27th last season (182.1); they averaged 21.2 points per game.

 

A potentially intriguing plot twist is Getsy’s relationship with Bears quarterback Justin Fields. Fields might be a Las Vegas trade target with the Raiders, who hold the No. 13 overall draft pick and are likely to move on from veteran Jimmy Garoppolo. While rookie Aidan O’Connell showed himself to be serviceable as a backup, he was immobile in the pocket.

 

Getsy was fired in Chicago on Jan. 10, after the club decided to shake up the staff, but kept coach Matt Eberflus for the 2024 season. The Bears finished 7-10, tied for last place in the NFC North with the Minnesota Vikings.

 

The Raiders, meanwhile, went 8-9, including a lackluster 31-12 Week 7 loss at Chicago with undrafted Bears rookie quarterback Tyson Bagent (filling in for an injured Fields). The defeat led to McDaniels’ dismissal on Oct. 31.

 

Under Pierce, promoted from linebackers coach to interim coach, the Raiders went 5-4, 3-1 in the AFC West and handed the conference champion Kansas City Chiefs their most recent loss on Christmas Day.

 

And though they scored 357 points, Raiders quarterbacks combined for just an 80.1 QBR rating.

 

In Chicago, player frustrations over the Bears’ offense showed several times during the 2023 season, beginning in Week 3 when Fields pointed to “coaching” as the reason behind his “robotic” play. Wide receiver DJ Moore also indicated a lack of consistent explosive plays caused Chicago to fall short.

 

“The growth and the development of the offense, to me, needed to be better than what it was,” Eberflus said after the season. “You look at the passing game, certainly that’s one aspect of it. And that’s where it is. We decided to move on from that.”

 

Getsy’s offense in Chicago ranked 17th in offensive points per game (20.4), its highest mark since ranking 11th in 2018, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

 

Sports Illustrated was first to report news of Getsy’s hiring.

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