Cincinnati Bengals: How Mohamed Sanu Can Be Most Effective in 2012

Kyle NewportFeatured ColumnistJune 3, 2012

Cincinnati Bengals: How Mohamed Sanu Can Be Most Effective in 2012

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    The Cincinnati Bengals must have been thrilled when Rutgers receiver Mohamed Sanu was still on the board when they selected in the third round of this year’s NFL draft.

    Looking to improve on offense, the Bengals took Sanu and will give him a chance to win the No. 2 receiver job. Inconsistent play by the receivers not named A.J. Green turned out to be the Bengals’ downfall last season.

    The receiving corps will return Green, Jordan Shipley and Pro Bowl tight end Jermaine Gresham. Shipley will more than likely be the slot receiver after tearing his ACL early last season. Every other receiver position will be open for competition.

    Andy Dalton will need consistent play from his receivers in order to build on last season’s success. Sanu looks to have the inside track for the No. 2 receiver and has the skill set to be a very good player in his rookie season.

    Can Sanu take pressure off of Andy Dalton? How do his skills translate to the NFL?

Possession Receiver

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    With A.J. Green as the No. 1 receiver, the Bengals need somebody to step up and be a solid No. 2 receiver.  

    Mohamed Sanu, known for his great hands, is more than capable of making plays and complementing Green.

    As the top target at Rutgers, Sanu averaged over 10 yards per catch. He had a catch of at least 13 yards or more in every game during his junior season. He consistently made plays and finished with 100 or more receiving yards in seven games in his final season as a Scarlet Knight.  

    After combining for 95 catches in his first two collegiate seasons, Sanu caught 115 passes in his final season at Rutgers. His hands allow him to create plays on his own and move the chains.

    Dropped passes hurt the Bengals last season. Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell dropped passes, which killed drives. Sanu’s great hands give him an advantage over the other young receivers on the Bengals roster and should help Andy Dalton grow as a quarterback.

    The Bengals do not need Sanu to try to do too much. As a rookie, he will be expected to contribute. Green is the team’s deep threat, and Sanu will need to continue to be a reliable target.    

Route Running

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    Lacking elite speed, Sanu needs to use his other skills to become a great receiver.

    The Bengals have not had great route runners in recent years. Sanu can use his great hands and excellent route running to make up for what he lacks in speed.

    The underneath routes are important for Sanu to execute properly. He can draw the secondary underneath and away from the other receivers. As the season goes on, he will be able to form a bond with Dalton and help him by getting open on broken plays.  

    A young quarterback like Dalton needs to be able to rely on his receivers to run the correct routes, especially on timing patterns. With Green and Gresham emerging as stars in the NFL, Sanu can make an immediate impact by sticking to his strengths and being a great route runner.

Plays Everywhere

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    The Bengals had to deal with injuries to their receivers last year, namely Green and Shipley. If either player suffers an injury this season, other receivers on the team will need to adjust their games accordingly.  

    Sanu played all over the field in college. As the top receiver on the team, he played both sides of the field and spent some time in the slot position. He is not afraid to catch the ball in traffic, and he hangs on to the ball.  

    With the skills Sanu possesses, his role on the team is unclear. Coming off of a serious injury, Jordan Shipley is an uncertainty. Sanu may need to step in and be the slot receiver while a quicker Brandon Tate lines up opposite of A.J. Green. If Shipley proves to be healthy and productive, Sanu may see some time as the No. 2 receiver. 

    The ability to play inside and outside gives Sanu an advantage over the other young receivers on the roster. His willingness to play anywhere will help him get on the field and be productive in his first professional season.  

Versatility

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    Trick plays can swing the momentum of a game and give a team extra confidence.

    The Bengals rarely use any trick plays but now have a player to execute them. They occasionally run reverses with A.J. Green and Andrew Hawkins with minimal success. Sanu had 125 rushing attempts for 653 yards and nine touchdowns in three collegiate seasons. He provides athleticism at the receiver position to run reverses or even run the Wildcat.

    Not only did he run the ball and catch passes in college, Sanu also threw the ball with some success. Of his 18 pass attempts, he completed eight of them for over 200 yards and four touchdowns. Last season, running back Bernard Scott’s only pass attempt fell incomplete.

    Sanu provides the Bengals with a playmaker and could be used in different ways this season. In the tough AFC North, it is crucial to use players in different ways to gain an advantage against the great defenses in the division.

    The versatile rookie receiver will be expected to play all over the field and be a game-changer.  

'Revenge'

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    After being projected as a first round pick, Sanu fell to Cincinnati in the third round. He hopes to show every other team they made a mistake by passing on him.

    The chip on his shoulder should give him the motivation to be a great player. After breaking Larry Fitzgerald’s Big East single-season reception record, Sanu probably did not expect to drop to the third round.

    The playmakers around Sanu will help him adjust to the style of the NFL. Many players who have dropped in the draft come into the season ready to prove the doubters wrong.

    If Dalton improves this season, Sanu will have his opportunity to show how good of a player he can be.