Is Mohamed Sanu Ready To Be A Lead Receiver?


Oct 26, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Mohamed Sanu (12) makes a catch during the second half against the Baltimore Ravens at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals won 27-24. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Through seven games this year, Mohamed Sanu may be the Bengals’ MVP. He’s stepped up in a big way while the Bengals’ offense has been hit by the injury bug several times. In the absence of Marvin Jones, Tyler Eifert, and A.J. Green for much of the season, Mohamed Sanu has established himself as maybe the most important weapon in the Bengals’ offense. It’s a remarkable story for a player who showed promise in his rookie season only to see his year end with an ankle injury. Last year, Sanu saw a drop in production, which wide receivers coach James Urban took responsibility for. Sanu’s production this year has been so impressive that one might wonder if he could lead a receivers group.

Mohamed Sanu currently possesses some impressive ranks amongst NFL receivers. Despite playing in an offense that likes to place a strong emphasis on the run and one that likes to spread the ball around, Sanu currently ranks 20th in receptions/game, 22nd in targets/game, and 13th in yards/game.

When A.J. Green has missed games, Mohamed Sanu has proven he is capable of taking the reigns.  In the four games that A.J. Green was out (including the Falcons game where Green exited the game very early), Sanu has 21 catches, on 36 targets, for 383 yards and two touchdowns.  His averages in these games of 5.25 catches, nine targets, 95.8 yards, and 0.5 touchdowns would be good for 17th, 12th, sixth, and 20th in the league respectively.  All impressive numbers for a receiver who was thrust into a huge offensive role unexpectedly when the year began.

More than that, Sanu compares well to other lead receivers in the NFL when looking at how much their respective quarterbacks’ production relies upon them. Here’s a breakdown of those stats.

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The point here is that Mohamed Sanu is relied upon by Andy Dalton nearly as much as any of these top receivers are relied upon by their respective quarterbacks.

But it isn’t simply production that makes Sanu such a potentially dominant weapon.  He has proven the ability to make big time catches and difficult ones when necessary.  Sanu made the 34-yard touchdown catch over a Panthers’ defender in Week Six.  He also made the 76-yard touchdown catch against the Falcons when Andy Dalton was under fire.

And this catch this past week against the Ravens, where the pass could’ve been intercepted if not for Sanu’s incredible hands.

It’s these kinds of plays that enable receivers to earn the ultimate trust from their quarterbacks while also displaying lead receiver ability.

Beyond his receiving ability, Mohamed Sanu is also an incredibly versatile weapon on offense.  Sanu is capable of running the ball out of the backfield, evidenced by his 26-yard rush on an end-around this past week against the Ravens.  In fact, Sanu is such a threat that the Bengals have been able to exploit his running threat by utilizing Sanu’s throwing ability several times across his career.  There was the throw to Andy Dalton this year that went for a touchdown, but even more impressive was his 50-yard throw to Brandon Tate earlier in the year.

And then there was the 73-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Green in Sanu’s rookie season: A pass that hit A.J. Green in stride 48 yards down the field.  Sanu’s versatility is incredible by receiver standards.  It makes him arguably the most unique receiver in the NFL in this way.  Wide receivers coach James Urban really sums up Mohamed Sanu’s versatility with this quote.

"“You’re limited only by your imagination in terms of Mo.”"

Mohamed Sanu has displayed every ability that you would look for in a top receiver.  He’s capable of getting it done in big moments, he’s capable of making plays all over the field, and can spark a stagnant offense with his versatility.  He’s a reliable weapon who can turn bad throws into completions and can lead an offense that is without several weapons.  Mohamed Sanu has stepped up in a big way for the Bengals this year.  His performance has likely solidified him as the number two option on this team going forward.  If not for the presence of the incredibly talented A.J. Green, Sanu’s performance and capability would likely have him considered as a number one option.