When the New England Patriots sent a second-round draft pick to the Atlanta Falcons to bring veteran wide receiver Mohamed Sanu on board, the expectation was that he would fill the number two role alongside Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman. While this might very well happen, the early returns on the investment have been underwhelming with Sanu catching 18 passes for 135 yards and a touchdown during his five games in New England’s offense.
The vast majority of this production came in just his second game with the team: against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 9, Sanu tied Edelman for the team-lead with 10 catches which went for 81 yards and a touchdown. Since then, however, his production has dropped in large part because of an ankle injury the 30-year-old suffered two weeks after his game in Baltimore — an injury that forced him to miss one game and be limited in the two since.
While the impact that the ankle injury and subsequent rehab period recently had on Sanu cannot be underestimated, Tom Brady thinks he also shares some of the blame for the pass catcher’s limited production since his apparent breakout performance in Week 9. The Patriots’ quarterback joined WEEI’s The Greg Hill Show on Monday morning and pointed out that he needs to find a way to get the midseason addition more involved in the operation.
“We were trying to get him the ball at different times, and sometimes the coverage dictated it go somewhere else. But he’s doing a great job,” Brady said one day after a 23-16 loss against the Kansas City Chiefs that saw Sanu finish with just one target that he caught for a 13-yard gain. “He’s a really tough, hard-nosed guy that wants the ball. He’s competitive, and I have to do a better job finding him and getting him the ball, because he can do good things with it.”
Spreading the football around has proven to be difficult for Brady and the offense as of late. While Julian Edelman is his usual productive self, the rest of the pass catchers have had up-and-down performances. As a result, Edelman was the intended target on 42 of Brady’s 155 non-throwaway pass attempts since New England’s Week 10 bye — a 27.1 percent target share that in turn led to the Patriots becoming a rather predictable passing offense.
Sanu, for comparison, has seen only 10 passes thrown his way since the bye and Brady knows that getting him and the other wide receivers more involved can lead to positive results in the long run: “I just love the way he has come in with his attitude, and he’s been a very hard-working guy. I am going to keep finding ways to get him the ball, because you have to get the ball to guys who can make plays, and he’s one of them.”
On Sunday, and four weeks removed from his ankle injury, Sanu will get his next chance — against one of his former teams, the Cincinnati Bengals, no less — to prove that he can indeed be the playmaker the Patriots hoped they would get when they acquired him. And if he does, New England’s struggling aerial attack will most certainly improve.