McGee: Why WR Kendrick Bourne's size doesn't matter?

August 14, 2017

For all the San Francisco 49ers have added at the wide receiver position this offseason, the one thing they appear to lack is size. 

 

WR Kendrick Bourne is making a push to ensure that does not continue to be the case.

 

Receivers Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin, Jeremy Kerley, Aldrick Robinson and Trent Taylor are all strong bets to make the roster. Of that group, only Garcon is 6-foot-0.

 

Standing at 6-foot-1, Bourne has the frame to offer a useful alternative, and his performance in the preseason opener against the Kansas City Chiefs offered credence to talk he could be a player worthy of keeping on the 53-man roster.

 

Bourne has been widely viewed as a player who is in a battle with the likes of receivers Victor Bolden Jr, Aaron Burbridge and DeAndre Smelter for the final spot on the receiver depth chart, and he significantly boosted his hopes by making four catches for 88 yards and a touchdown while also hauling in a two-point conversion pass from QB C.J. Beathard.

 

In the wake of Bourne's showing, head coach Kyle Shanahan praised him, per NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco, for his ability to create separation. 

 

That trait was obvious against the Chiefs, with Bourne taking full advantage of a free release on this play, leaving the cornerback for dust only to bobble the pass as a result of QB Matt Barkley throwing it slightly too late.

 

 But Bourne is able to take advantage of off coverage in third quarter, breaking over the middle at just the right time to give the defender plenty of ground to make up and allow himself to pick up some yardage after the catch.

 

The most impressive example of how Bourne engineers separation came on his 46-yard touchdown from Beathard, in which he used one hesitation move to shake a defender off his feet before juking past another to go in for the score.

 

 In addition to his apparent knack for creating space, Bourne demonstrated a desire to embrace contact against the Chiefs.

 

On this completion over the middle, Bourne knows he is going to get hit -- and does end up being flipped by a defender -- but shows no hesitation in hauling in the ball and hanging on.

 

Bourne's willingness to take on contact was key to him bringing in Beathard's pass for the two-point conversion of his touchdown. In doing so Bourne cleverly fought his way to the outside shoulder of the defender before locating the ball on a fade route, going up and showing off his impressive catch radius by making the catch round the back of the cornerback.

 

His physicality was also evident in run-blocking. Bourne demonstrates an impressive attitude towards his task on this run by Joe Williams, who he is able to help spring for a first-round gain.

 

Any performance against with the second and third string comes with the obvious qualifier that Bourne was going against largely replacement and below-replacement level talent.

 

Bourne also doesn't seem to be overly gifted athletically having run the 40-yard-dash at the NFL Combine in just 4.68 seconds, with his long speed questioned by scouts during the draft process, according to NFL.com's Lance Zierlein.

 

But against the Chiefs, the former Eastern Washington wideout demonstrated very nice hands with his four catches coming on seven targets, one of which was a terribly inaccurate throw from Beathard, as well as an ability to elevate and fight ball in the air while being able to win with route-running and physicality.

 

He still has a very difficult path to the roster but another showing like the one at Arrowhead may be enough to convince head coach Kyle Shanahan that Bourne should be part of his plans.

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