With Mohamed Sanu and Julian Edelman paired up and running ankle-breaking routes, the Patriots are primed to shred opposing defensive interiors.
What happens when two of the NFL’s savviest route-runners join forces on a team led by the greatest quarterback of all-time and one of the most creative offensive coordinators in the league today?
Absolute and utter annihilation… or at least that’s what the New England Patriots are betting on, now that they’ve traded a second-round pick in next year’s draft to the Atlanta Falcons for veteran wide receiver Mohamed Sanu.
It’s a steep price to pay for any player, let alone one that was probably only the fourth-best option in the passing game for his previous team (Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Austin Hooper). And yet, Sanu’s addition to this Patriots squad might be just what the defending champs need to take their offense to an entirely new – and entirely lethal – level in 2019.
No one should really be that surprised that New England executed this trade less than a week out from the deadline.
The Patriots, sitting at 7-0 after dismantling the New York Jets in primetime, were widely-viewed as buyers in this market… just as the 1-6 Falcons were considered to be sellers with their season already all but over. New England has reportedly long coveted Sanu, having unsuccessfully tried to acquire him in free agency back in 2016 and then again via trade before the draft this season.
Turns out the third time’s the charm for the Pats, who now add a 6’2, 210-pound receiver to their pass-catching depth chart. While it might seem logical to pencil Sanu in on the outside for New England, given injuries to Josh Gordon and N’Keal Harry as well as Sanu’s own impressive size and physical strength, he’s actually far more dangerous lining up inside and working the middle of the field.
Because of this, the Patriots may once again have their cheat code in place for how to consistently move the sticks and earn first downs at will this season. Sanu, alongside Tom Brady favorite Julian Edelman, is now free to work his magic on shallow routes and crossing patterns that will befuddle opposing linebackers and slot cornerbacks… and he should be all the more motivated to do so now that he’s playing for a Super Bowl contender.
Antonio Brown was supposed to be that cheat code this season. And for one magical game against the dreadful Dolphins down in Miami, he absolutely looked the part. Behind Brady, Brown, Edelman, Gordon, and Phillip Dorsett, the Patriots offense rolled to its highest point total of the season (43).
Alas, Brown could not maintain the high standards and expectations accompanying the Patriot Way, and he soon found himself unemployed and potentially out of the NFL forever.
Ever since that point, New England has been searching for a replacement – for another exceptional route-runner who can line up anywhere on the field, but who does most of his damage in between the hashmarks. Especially with Harry on IR; with Gordon, Edelman, and Dorsett all missing time because of injuries; and with undrafted rookies Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski still getting up to NFL speed and earning Brady’s trust, it’s become readily apparent that the Patriots really needed reinforcements on offense this season.
They recently added Benjamin Watson and Eric Tomlinson to their tight end depth chart, for starters. Between those two players, as well as the injured Matt LaCosse and the concussed Ryan Izzo, New England presumably now has enough bodies to at least somewhat offset the massive drop-off in tight end production they’ve suffered since Rob Gronkowski unexpectedly retired last March.
Assuming Gordon and Harry both make their return to the starting lineup, the Patriots also now have one of the better receiver depth charts in the NFL. When McDaniels wants New England to go five-wide for Brady, those five players could conceivably be Edelman, Gordon, Sanu, Dorsett, and Harry. That’s a tough task for any defensive coordinator to have to gameplan for, no matter how skilled their players are on that side of the ball.
And then of course, at least three of New England’s four running backs are major threats to do damage in the passing game if needed: James White, Rex Burkhead, and Brandon Bolden. All three of those players have shown their ability as receivers throughout this season and in previous seasons with the Patriots; even Sony Michel, the worst “wideout” of the bunch, has shown some signs of improvement catching passes out of the backfield in 2019.
More than anything though, Sanu’s arrival should have massive implications for Edelman. The reigning Super Bowl MVP has been overtaxed in his 11th season, as the Patriots have practically forced him to play through a nagging chest injury sustained in Week 3… quite simply out of sheer necessity.
Edelman is tough as nails, and he no doubt wants to be out there with his brothers on the field… but Sanu catching some of Brady’s balls should help drastically lower the number of hits Edelman is taking every week as he runs amok all over the field. Getting Gordon and Harry back in the lineup on the outside – where both are best suited – could also work wonders for both Sanu and Edelman in the center of the field.
By the time New England returns from their Week 10 bye to begin their final seven-game march toward the playoffs, Edelman should be healthier and more well-rested than he’s been since the start of the season. At that point, Sanu will also have had the benefit of spending three full weeks with the complex Patriots playbook… not to mention all the time practicing and playing with Brady.
The Philadelphia Eagles’ injury-ravaged secondary could very well become the first sacrificial lamb for this dangerous Edelman/Sanu pairing in Week 11… although Patriots fans will hope the reign of terror begins even sooner, perhaps as early as this week against the middling Cleveland Browns.
Whenever it happens, the results should immediately turn some heads around the league.
The Patriots defense has deservedly stolen all of the headlines through seven weeks of stellar play this season; it’s high-time the offense begins pulling some of its own weight. If Sanu plays up to his potential and becomes the perfect complement to Edelman in this increasingly-loaded Patriots roster, New England might finally start looking unbeatable in all three phases of the game this season.