During the San Francisco 49ers final preseason game you saw some wide receivers getting pulled rather early. Richie James, Jordan Matthews, both were pulled in the first quarter.
But then Kendrick Bourne kept on playing. And while James and Deebo Samuel hauled in their targets, Bourne dropped a not-so-crucial, but telling, pass from C.J. Beathard.
In the second quarter, on 1st and 10, Beathard put a ball right in Bourne’s hands. On replay, it looked like he mistimed, locking his hands and pulling the ball in. While he had coverage on him, it was a pass you catch in the NFL. Especially if you’re on the bubble to make the roster.
It could have been easy to say that’s the end of Kendrick Bourne in San Francisco, but later on, in the second quarter with a minute remaining, Bourne went in and caught a touchdown pass from Nick Mullens. A diving catch where Bourne looked like he wasn’t even the intended receiver. Intended or not, it was a pretty impressive catch.
So now what? Bourne can’t catch a simple throw to his hands, but he can sail across the endzone and get a ball that may not have been meant for him to begin with. With tough decisions at wide receiver, did the first drop and the fact Bourne played most of the game, a game where Matthews, James, and others were pulled much earlier say anything? After all, Kyle Shanahan has preached consistency from the wide receiver groups, and that’s both ends of the spectrum.
“That’s not the most consistent right there,” Kyle Shanahan said in his post-game press conference, “but drops from Bourne haven’t been too much of a problem. I do consider Bourne having some of the better hands on our team. So, that’s definitely one that he should’ve had and hurt a drive.”
OK. Back to square one. Bourne has made impressive catches in his career, but 2019 is a crucial one for his job, and the drops have been on camera for all to see. The 49ers have no indications of keeping seven wide receivers on the roster despite some speculation, and they have shiny new toys in Jalen Hurd and Deebo Samuel which are all but guaranteed a roster spot when considering their rookie status and draft positioning. Don’t forget the special teams’ value of Richie James. James, in particular, had maddening drops in Week 1, not Week 4. He also didn’t play much in Week 4, which tells something else.
We’ve all seen Bourne’s good hands in the past, and they were on full display tonight. For someone who played a majority of Week 4 in the preseason, it says an awful lot when his peers were pulled early. Kyle Shanahan may not have yet had a firm idea of where Bourne stood.
And after Thursday night, we still don’t know. If that dropped pass was all there was, the 49ers could have dropped Bourne. Then Bourne goes and shows you what else he can do.
There are some tough decisions on Sunday. Injuries to Jalen Hurd aside, the dropped pass could be the end of Bourne. The touchdown could save his job. Maybe his hands already have him a locker. Which way do you think the 49ers go?