The New England Patriots have tried numerous people at the wide receiver position this year — from Maurice Harris to Josh Gordon to Demaryius Thomas to Antonio Brown — but ultimately did not find what they were looking for to complement Julian Edelman and Phillip Dorsett. The latest player to come in and try to carve out a role in one of the toughest offenses in the NFL is Mohamed Sanu, who played his first game for the team on Sunday.
Sanu, of course, was acquired via trade last week when the Patriots sent a second-round selection in next year’s draft to the Atlanta Falcons in exchange for his services. Just five days after the move was first reported, the 30-year-old was on the field against the Cleveland Browns and seeing considerable action. Sanu played 37 of 69 offensive snaps as New England’s number three wide receiver and caught two passes for a combined 23 yards.
His stat-line may not stand out, but the eight-year veteran still showed upside and big play ability in his comparatively limited action. Just take a look at the two passes he caught in his debut: the first was a 4-yard completion to convert a fourth down in Cleveland territory in the second quarter; the other a 19-yarder when Sanu was able to get separation against the Brown’s man-to-man coverage on a crossing pattern in the fourth period.
“I think we’re just going to try to find ways to keep incorporating everybody,” said quarterback Tom Brady about Sanu after Sunday’s game. “He worked really hard this week to really get up to speed and to play as much as he did. I think it’s just going to be more and more confidence as he keeps going. He made a huge catch for us on fourth down, had a good crosser that he made a nice catch on, so keep just trying to find ways to get him the ball.”
New England’s quarterback had to work with all the receivers mentioned above, but will likely see more continuity around him with Sanu now in the fold and first-round rookie N’Keal Harry expected to be activated off injured reserve this week. Together with the aforementioned Edelman and Dorsett, the group has plenty of upside in the Patriots’ system — and Sanu’s first week with the team certainly contributes to this perspective.
“He worked really hard,” said head coach Bill Belichick about the last few days. “He spent a lot of extra time with everybody, especially Joe [Judge] and Troy [Brown]. Obviously, Josh [McDaniels], Tom and the other receivers, Phil and Jules and those guys. But he worked hard and I thought he gained a lot of ground on the offense. Hopefully, he’ll be further ahead next week but I’m glad he’s here and hopefully he’ll be able to contribute for us.”
“When you’re a professional you take your job seriously and you will be able to go out there and take it all in and be able to contribute,” said Phillip Dorsett when talking about his newest teammate after Sunday’s game. “He makes plays that are critical. It was the [...] fourth down, the one that got challenged, that was a big play and then the crossing route he caught across the field, another big play. We needed him and he made it.”
Sanu himself sang a slightly different tune, and pointed out that he was just getting his feet wet in his first game in a Patriots uniform. Despite his lack of experience in the team’s system compared to the likes of Dorsett, Edelman and the rest of the receiver group, however, the trade acquisition showed the ability to adapt quickly to his new environment — one that he called “special” after the 27-13 win over the Browns.
“It’s really special because you can see why they are the way they are. You can see why they have won as much as they have. How deliberate they are at practice and the time they spend on the keys to the game,” said Sanu about the organization. Judging by his teammates’ quotes about him and his first on-field performance, it appears as if he is fitting right in with the Patriots and their approach; good news for an offense that is still looking for its groove eight weeks into the season.