Newly-acquired wide receiver Mohamed Sanu has seemingly wasted no time in getting up to speed in the New England Patriots offense.
When the New England Patriots sent a 2020 second-round draft pick to the Falcons for Mohamed Sanu, some analysts and sportswriters gave the team less-than-flattering reviews for the price they paid Atlanta in order to acquire the veteran wide receiver.
The deal probably looked even worse just a few hours later when San Francisco sent Denver a third and a fourth-round pick in that same draft for Emmanuel Sanders. While Sanu and Sanders are two very different receivers, it’s logical to compare their career production and come away with a belief that Sanders is the better option… and yet he cost the 49ers less than Sanu cost the Patriots in terms of draft value.
Of course, Sanders is a free agent after this season, while Sanu still has one year left on the deal he signed back in 2016. Perhaps that helped tilt the scales towards Sanu for the Pats, and contributed to Bill Belichick the general manager’s estimation of his worth when he called up the Falcons to orchestrate the trade.
It’s still early, but so far both the 49ers and the Patriots have to be pleased with their respective investments.
San Francisco desperately needed a true No. 1 receiver to pair with their dynamic tight end, George Kittle, and stable of talented running backs. Sanders has immediately stepped into that role with flying colors, scoring a touchdown in back-to-back weeks since he came over from the Broncos and racking up 12 total catches for 137 yards in the process.
Sanu’s debut with his new team was a bit less pronounced – he caught just two of five targets for 23 yards in a rainy, sloppy win over the Browns. One of those catches notably went for a successful fourth down conversion, however… which is important because it speaks volumes about just how quickly the 30-year-old receiver earned Tom Brady’s trust in a critical situation.
If there were any lingering doubts or feelings of “buyer’s remorse” in the Sanu acquisition, his performance Sunday night in a road loss to the Baltimore Ravens probably erased them.
Brady looked Sanu’s way early and he looked his way often. The former Scarlet Knight led all New England receivers in targets on the night with 14, and he managed to come down with 10 of those balls for 81 yards. Sanu also hauled in just his second touchdown of the season on a four-yard pass from Brady early in the second quarter.
The touchdown was especially important because it essentially dammed up the floodgates of Baltimore’s opening points barrage. The Patriots had quickly fallen behind by 17 points, and the New England defense looked shellshocked trying to contain the Ravens’ rushing tandem of Lamar Jackson and Mark Ingram. Sanu’s score both stopped the bleeding and paved the way for the Patriots to score 13 straight points of their own.
We all know it wasn’t ultimately enough. Baltimore found their stride again in the second half after Julian Edelman’s costly fumble, and the Ravens never looked back in sending the Patriots to their first loss of the season.
All hope is not lost for the defending champs though.
New England now enter their bye week with plenty of motivation to improve upon a number of key areas that cost them Sunday night, including rushing defense, rushing offense, pass protection, and penalties. The dream of an undefeated regular season is gone, but so is the accompanying pressure that comes with it; the Pats can now focus solely on wrapping up their division, earning the top seed in the conference, and winning a seventh Super Bowl title.
In a limited sample size, Sanu’s involvement in helping the team realize all those goals looks promising. The complicated New England offense has proven to be too much to master for certain other talented players brought over to Foxborough in the past, but it appears that Sanu has learned the playbook quickly.
Even more importantly, he has rapidly earned Brady’s trust… and that’s critical for keeping this offense from becoming one-dimensional (aka just feeding Julian Edelman and/or James White). Especially if the Patriots can get their offensive line fixed (adding Isaiah Wynn back into the mix should help), the team now has a host of talented wideouts for Brady to throw to in Sanu, Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers, and N’Keal Harry – who should himself be active and healthy in Week 11 against the Eagles.
The arrow is decidedly pointing up for Sanu after this breakout performance. Whether or not he proves to be worth the second-round draft pick that was traded for his services, only time will tell. But if the early results are any indication, it looks like a great acquisition by Belichick that could have major implications on this team’s fortunes down the road.