When the New England Patriots sent a second-round draft pick to the Atlanta Falcons to acquire wide receiver Mohamed Sanu ahead of last year’s trade deadline, they added a proven commodity to a passing offense that struggled to hit its groove. While the Patriots paid a hefty price for Sanu, he made an immediate impact upon his arrival: he caught a combined 12 passes for 104 yards and a touchdown in his first two games.
There was optimism surrounding the new Patriots pass catcher coming out of the team’s subsequent bye, but it did not last long. In just his third contest in New England, versus the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 11, Sanu suffered a high-ankle sprain that forced him to miss one game and limited him through the rest of the season.
As a result, Sanu failed to build on his promising start as the number two wideout alongside Julian Edelman and had only a limited impact on the Patriots’ struggling aerial attack. The veteran eventually was forced to undergo surgery on his injured ankle after it failed to properly heal during the offseason, but is already back on track in his preparation for the 2020 season — at least if his personal trainer is to be believed.
“I would tell you he’s probably faster, quicker, leaner and in better shape now than prior to the surgery. I would say he’s way ahead of any doctor’s knowledge or prediction where he would have been at this point. Way ahead of the curve,” Hilton Alexander recently told ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss.
Alexander, who runs a business under the name “Route King,” is in his third year working with Sanu, and his positive assessment of his development four months removed from the procedure on his ankle certainly is good news for the Patriots: the team’s offense, after all, will have to move forward without Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady and his successor — likely second-year man Jarrett Stidham — would benefit from fielding an improved receiving corps.
“That’s one of the worst injuries you can get,” Alexander said about the ankle injury that limited Sanu down the stretch in 2019 and contributed to the Patriots’ offensive struggles. “It takes so much time to heal. Being that he’s a receiver, the ability to cut is probably one of your greatest assets. It hinders your ability to be able to cut as precisely as you want to. That’s why he wasn’t as dynamic as he wanted to be toward the end of the season.”
With the team not investing in the position in this year’s deep draft class, however, Sanu still projects to be a part of New England’s plans this year — despite his disappointing first year in the system and a salary cap hit of $6.5 million. And according to his trainer, the eight-year veteran is eager to prove his value to the organization.
“I think he knows he was a shell of himself toward the end of the season. He wasn’t in the position where he could do the best he could and be able to offer that Mohamed Sanu that everybody has grown to love all those years in [Cincinnati] and Atlanta,” Alexander said about the 30-year-old. “I know the fans didn’t get a chance to see 100 percent Mohamed Sanu. I promise you, that is a huge chip on his shoulder now.”