The New England Patriots’ 20th-ranked passing offense took a significant step back on Sunday, as Kendrick Bourne left their 31-17 loss to Miami with what’s now been diagnosed as a torn ACL. Bourne’s season is over, and with it, New England loses their top playmaker who leads the team in virtually every offensive category this year.
The lone bright spot in this news is the opportunity it opens up for other members of New England’s offense. Guys like JuJu Smith-Schuster and Jalen Reagor will undoubtedly see marked increases in their snap and target share, but the guy I’m most excited about is Demario Douglas.
The team’s rookie sixth-round wideout from Liberty, who friends and teammates refer to as “Pop,” has been making noise since the summer when he was fighting for a roster spot.
Douglas managed to make the Week 1 roster, but he would quickly learn that his work was only beginning.
ESCAPING BELICHICK’S DOGHOUSE
Excitement was high on Douglas heading into the season and even higher when he caught four of seven targets for 40 yards in his debut. But he coughed up a fumble early in the team’s Week 2 contest, and his target numbers dwindled to three or less from Weeks 2-6, while getting comfortable in Bill Belichick’s doghouse.
Douglas has returned to a more prominent role over the past two weeks, catching nine of 13 targets for 79 yards and logging 24 rushing yards on two carries as well — and that was before Bourne’s injury.
Now, with Bourne out and Douglas expected to slide into a starting WR slot, we may see the “Pop” we’ve been waiting for.
INCREASED PRODUCTION ON THE HORIZON?
In an offense that’s 31st in scoring, expectations always need to be tempered. As the team’s leading receiver, Kendrick Bourne is 41st in the league in receiving yards and tied for 29th in receptions. Douglas now finds himself competing with the likes of Smith-Schuster, Reagor, and DeVante Parker for targets, not to mention two capable tight ends in Hunter Henry and Mike Gesicki — plus Pharoah Brown, who leads the team in yards per reception at 24.3.
The hope now is that New England sees Douglas’ value as a slot receiver with solid YAC ability and peppers him like they’ve done in the past with slot legends Wes Welker, Julian Edelman, and Danny Amendola. That’s a lofty goal for a rookie wideout, but Pop is undoubtedly the best candidate on the roster to fill that role.
REST OF SEASON FANTASY OUTLOOK
Luckily, recent comments from Mac Jones lend some credibility to our expectations of Douglas moving forward.
“I’ve known of him since I was little,” Mac Jones said of Douglas. “I know that he’s always fought an uphill battle. He always talks about his size, right? He’s always going to keep fighting, and I know that about him. I can be hard on him and try to raise that standard because I know where he comes from. I know how hard he works, and he’s going to bring it every week.”
Belichick has historically told his team that he “doesn’t care how you got here,” and the most productive players will get the most opportunities. For a sixth-round guy like Douglas who’s trying to beat out costly acquisitions like Parker and Smith-Schuster, that’s exactly what we need to be hearing.
Douglas is the WR57 on The Wolf’s Rest of Season Big Board, ahead of all other Patriots wideouts, and is currently owned in just 3% of leagues. He’s well worth a flier heading into a Week 9 matchup with Washington, who appears to be selling off a good chunk of their defense before today’s trade deadline.