Sixty minutes against the defending NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles confirmed the New England Patriots will have a much-improved offense in 2023.
Replacing Matt Patricia and Joe Judge with offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien led many to believe it would be the case, of course, but Patriots fans might still have had questions. Especially given the well-documented preseason struggles for an offensive line tasked with protecting quarterback Mac Jones.
Well, the offensive line passed its initial test against the Eagles, arguably the most talented defensive front in the league. It was one of the most positive offensive trends from New England’s 25-20 loss at Gillette Stadium on Sunday.
Not to be overshadowed, though, were the performances of skill players like tight end Hunter Henry and receiver Kendrick Bourne. Both players excelled in 2021 when Josh McDaniels called the plays before they took a noticeable step backward with Patricia on the headset. Fortunately for the Patriots, they were back to being productive in Week 1.
It might have Patriots fans and fantasy football managers considering putting in a claim for either Henry and/or Bourne. Though it’s a small sample size, it feels like it would be a wise decision. They were among the best in the league at their respective positions in New England’s opener.
Henry, who had five catches on six targets for 56 yards and one touchdown, finished as the highest-scoring tight end in fantasy football. In full-point leagues, Henry scored 16.60 points while his 2.77 points per target were fifth among players at the position, per Sportradar. It’s clear Jones and Henry have a connection to reestablish after a season of regression.
“I’ll just say this about Mac, man: I’ll go to battle with No. 10 any day of the week,” Henry told reporters after Sunday’s loss, per the team. “The dude’s a competitor, and it’s fun to go out there and play with a guy like that.”
When Henry and Jones first established their connection during the 2021 season, Henry finished as TE10 in total scoring. He caught nine touchdowns that season.
Bourne also seems like he could be in for a big year, and thus worthy of a roster spot.
Not only did Bourne score the fourth-most points among receivers in Week 1, per Sportradar, but he also played more snaps and saw more targets from Jones than any other Patriots pass-catcher. Bourne finished with six receptions for 64 yards on 11 targets. His two touchdowns allowed his point total to jump as he finished behind only Tyreek Hill, Brandon Aiyuk and Jakobi Meyers in Week 1 scoring.
Does that mean Bourne consistently will finish as a top-10 receiver? No, obviously not. But his target share on the Patriots and connection with Jones is not something that should be overlooked. Bourne was WR33 at the conclusion of the 2021 fantasy campaign after career-highs in yards (800), receptions (55), and touchdowns (five).
“KB is one of my closest friends, and I know that he is going to run as hard as he can on every play and fight for the ball, and our receivers have been doing that very well,” Jones told reporters Sunday in reference to Bourne.
Jones later called Bourne his “go-to guy” when the Patriots are trailing or behind the sticks.
Both players are widely available. Henry was rostered in 16% of Yahoo leagues ahead of Week 1 while Bourne was rostered in merely 2%. They will start vanishing off the waiver wire if their production continues, though.