Free Agency is just a few weeks away, and as #BradyWatch continues, I thought you might all want a break from all that nonsense. So let’s jump back into our countdown of the Top 20 Most Memorable Patriots Moments of 2019.
The list so far:
20. The Patriots draft N’Keal Harry.
We’re going to stick with the wide receiver position for Number 19, as it represents Bill Belichick getting something he’s been after for years.
19, The Patriots trade for Mohammed Sanu.
There are certain players that, for one reason or another, Bill Belichick absolutely loves. Usually it’s a defensive player, like Robert Mathis or Ed Reed, but every once in a while there will be a receiver out there that Belichick does everything in his power to bring to New England. And one of those receivers was Mohamed Sanu, a Rutgers product who caught 210 passes for 2,263 yards and 19 touchdowns, gained 3,019 all-purpose yards, and completed eight of 18 passes for 207 yards and four touchdowns during his three years with the Scarlet Knights. Selected by the Bengals in the third round of the 2012 Draft, Sanu’s rookie season didn’t see him on the field that much, as a stress fracture ended his year early. However, he was a complete receiver that could line up all over the field and be used in all kinds of formations. Furthermore, Sanu holds the distinctive record of being the only receiver in NFL history to throw a touchdown pass before ever making his first reception as a pro. In a Week 3 game against the Redskins, Sanu came out on the very first play of the game in the Wildcat formation and launched a 73 yard bomb to AJ Green to put the Bengals up by a score. He represented the exact kind of player that Belichick covets: versatile, rangy, with a strong route tree and multiple angles of attack. He was never a #1 kind of receiver, but in the right system he’s the kind of player that can flourish.
When Sanu became a free agent in 2016, the Patriots went after him hard. However, the Falcons offered him both more money and more years, and so he ended up going to Atlanta on a five year, $32.5 million contract with the Falcons. His time in Atlanta was fairly consistent; he was a 60-80 receptions, four to five TDs, and about 750 yards a season kind of guy. Not a world-beater, but rock solid.
So when news broke in late October that the Patriots were trading for Sanu, there was a lot of excitement. Here was a player that Belichick had been after forever, and New England was in dire need of a receiver that wasn’t injured, a rookie, or a nutjob. Most folks didn’t think he’d come in and light the league on fire, but pairing a smart, athletic, mulitfaceted receiver with Tommy B and Julian Edelman seemed like a great way to open up the playbook and add more wrinkles to a severely limited offense. Plenty of fans (yours truly included) raised an eyebrow at the seeminly high price of a second round pick for a receiver who had never cracked 1,000 yards in his pro career, but since the Pats really needed receiver help and that 2nd round pick was just going to get burned on a DB who never saw the field anyway, the upside seemed to outweigh the downside.
After a slow debut against Cleveland in which Sanu caught just two passes for 23 yards, Sanu hauled in 10 grabs for 81 yards and a TD just one week later, which had optimism soaring. Just a week into the new system, and here Sanu was with double digit receptions! Maybe things were starting to turn around. Unfortunately, that would be his best game as a Patriot, as Sanu never caught more than three passes in a single game after that. He struggled to gain separation. He had an infuriating habit of both breaking off his route too early and breaking it off short of the first down marker. he was rarely Brady’s first look and only saw more than five attempts thrown his way once for the rest of the year. He finished his 2019 Patriots season with 26 catches for 207 yards and a score - not what we were expecting for a 2nd round pick.
Depending on who you talk to, Sanu is either a high-upside receiver who will be better with a full year in the Patriots system and more weapons around him in 2020 or yet another name to add to the ever-growing list of WRs who did well elsewhere, but just couldn’t crack New England’s complex offense and gain Tommy B’s trust. I personally find myself in the former camp; I’m not ready to give up on him just yet. I was one of the ones jumping for joy the highest when the trade was first announced, as I’m of the highly controversial opinion that Bill Belichick knows more about football than I do, but even I have to admit Sanu underwhelmed this season. Still, he provided some great optimism and showed a lot of promise early on; also, on a larger note, this move helps to tell the story of the 2019 Patriots season as a whole. Things weren’t working offensively, so they tried something else to give the offense a jolt, and it didn’t really work. If that doesn’t sum up this past year in a nutshell, I don’t know what does.
My hope is that ranking the Sanu trade this low will make me look foolish, as he’ll have a much stronger showing next season. Of course, I could also end up looking foolish for putting this trade on the countdown at all, but we’ll just have to wait and see. For now, though, I think he’s right where he belongs at Number 19.
Since there aren’t that many Sanu Patriots highlights to show, here he is Mic’d Up in the Super Bowl. That’s much more fun to watch.