When Marvin Jones suffered a couple of lower leg injuries early on in 2014, the Cincinnati Bengals‘ focus turned to third-year receiver Mohamed Sanu. After an injury stymied his rookie season development, Sanu enjoyed a sort of bounce back season in 2013, though his receivers coach (Darrin Simmons) clearly felt his season could’ve been much better if not for a poor decision on his part.
Sanu took the 2014 season by storm when the Bengals’ lost both Marvin Jones in the preseason and then A.J. Green essentially for Week Two and officially for Weeks Six-Eight. During the first half of the season, when Green missed four games due to inconsistent health, Mohamed Sanu racked up 628 yards and four touchdowns on 39 catches. Confidence in Sanu was at a high.
Once Green returned in Week Nine and reclaimed control of the passing game, Sanu’s production waned; he caught only 17 passes for 162 yards and one touchdown. Confidence in Sanu dissipated as quickly as it coalesced during the first half of the season.
Despite the barren ending to Sanu’s 2014, fans should remain confident that Mohamed Sanu can provide a unique and most importantly, productive presence to the offense. His versatility gives the Bengals an X-factor type of threat and a weapon that can help bolster the unit in the coming season.
In addition to this, many NFL minds feel that Cincinnati could use a true slot wide receiver. Some feel they may have found this in seventh-round selection Mario Alford while others feel that they are still in need of one.
Mohamed Sanu could fill the slot receiver slot. Putting a player like Sanu in the slot makes sense with a quarterback like Andy Dalton and an offensive coordinator like Hue Jackson. As many fans might have noticed, Dalton isn’t the most accurate thrower, which means putting a big possession receiver in the slot gives him a great short-yardage target to check down to when under pressure. Sanu has the requisite strength to overwhelm slot corners physically and the size to box out opponents at the point of the catch. His presence on short routes would be a welcomed sight for Dalton.
Keeping Mohamed Sanu on the field as often as possible keeps the offense at maximum versatility. Sanu is the ultimate “swiss army knife” type of player. He can throw it, catch it all over the field, and can run it. Hue Jackson can be as creative as he wants to be when calling plays. Sanu’s versatility perfectly compliments Jackson’s creativity as a coordinator.
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Also, directly addressing last year, some of the blame for Sanu’s slide is the Bengals’ penchant for running the ball. Cincinnati has chosen to decrease Andy Dalton’s role over the past season in an effort to bring balance to the offense (when compared to the Jay Gruden-lead days) and mitigate the errors he makes. With only so many throws to go around and the presence of Dalton’s favorite target A.J. Green, there is a sort of “cap” to how much a receiver can do in this situation.
Marvin Jones’ 2013 campaign has been held in high regard. He produced 51 catches for 712 yards and 10 touchdowns. Meanwhile, Sanu produced a 56/790/5 line in 2014, yet his season is often seen as a letdown. This isn’t to say Sanu should replace Jones on the outside, but rather to highlight Sanu’s potential given how much fans see in Jones.
When Cincinnati develops their depth chart later this year, they would do well to place Mohamed Sanu in the third wide receiver spot. His presence in the slot gives Dalton a great option when “feeling the heat.” Sanu offers the type of versatility that will enhance the offense by allowing Hue Jackson to be as creative as his mind is capable. And Sanu offers the kind of promise that should motivate a team to get him onto the field as often as possible. Sanu may have faltered towards the end of 2014, but fans should be as excited as ever for the ultra-versatile Mohamed Sanu.
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