Marquise Goodwin went down with thigh and hamstring injuries in the second quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers last Sunday. A quarter prior, his backup Dante Pettis suffered during a punt return. With both Goodwin and Pettis out, the San Francisco 49ers looked to second-year wideout Kendrick Bourne to fill the void at the "X" receiver position.
This was uncharted territory for Bourne, who typically backs up Pierre Garçon at "Z." That's not something Bourne would have been able to do on the fly last year as a rookie. But his expanded knowledge of Kyle Shanahan's offense in Year 2 had given him at least a cursory
"That was definitely new," Bourne said. "Something that I kind of proved myself knowing the plays around the playbook, not just 'Z.' Just getting help from the guys around me, too, saying 'You can do it, man. Just listen to the play calls and be poised and don't flinch. It went better than I (expected)."
Added Shanahan: "I thought last week was his best game, especially with the fact that we threw him at a position he hadn't done before. He would not have been able to do that last year. He pulled that off for us versus Los Angeles, so very appreciative and proud of him for that."
Bourne caught 3-of-4 targets for 34 yards and his team-leading second touchdown of the season.
Bourne has shown maturity at receiver from Year 1 to Year 2. Through four weeks, he continues to establish himself as a red zone threat. The 2017 undrafted free agent finished his rookie campaign with 257 yards on 16 receptions and no touchdowns to show for it. However, he saw an increase in targets in the second half of last season and has continued to build a rapport in 2018 with second-year quarterback C.J. Beathard.
"Kendrick's just gotten better each and every week that he's been here and been on the team," Beathard said. "He was a great route runner last year when he got here. He was just kind of raw and didn't necessarily know what he was doing, per se. If you told him to get open, he would go get open and he would do it. But, what he's so good at now is doing it within the timing of the route combinations and stuff like that. He's got a lot better knowledge of the offense and he's really becoming a good receiver."
Bourne could be a player to watch in Week 5 and might see his number called yet again against the Arizona Cardinals. Shanahan revealed this week that Bourne is likely to see additional practice reps at "X" ahead of Sunday's contest. With Pettis ruled out and Goodwin's status questionable, Bourne could be looking at another prime opportunity to prove himself.
"(I'm) just being in the position to make myself successful," Bourne added. "It's simple as that. Once I know the plays, I feel it's natural for me. It's just about going out there and making it happen."