FOXBORO, Mass. — Mohamed Sanu’s second game in a New England Patriots uniform was a banner performance: 10 catches, 81 yards, one touchdown in a loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
Since then, the veteran wide receiver has been quiet, and an ankle injury might be to blame.
Sanu suffered the injury on a punt return during New England’s Week 11 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. He finished that game with just two catches on four targets for four yards, sat out the following week’s victory over the Dallas Cowboys, then was held to three catches on five targets for 14 yards in last Sunday’s loss to the Houston Texans.
Clearly operating at less than 100 percent, Sanu played just 19 offensive snaps against the Texans (22 percent; his lowest mark since his rookie season) and had a costly drop on fourth down. The ankle continued to hinder the 30-year-old this week, limiting him in practice ahead of Sunday’s showdown with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Ideally, Sanu would be the Patriots’ No. 2 receiver behind Julian Edelman, playing upward of 80 percent of snaps each game while Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers and N’Keal Harry fill in the cracks at the Nos. 3, 4 and 5 spots. Not having him fully healthy has been one of several factors hamstringing New England’s offense, which hasn’t topped 25 points since late October and managed just three points over the first 44 minutes in Houston.
Head coach Bill Belichick, though, still has high hopes for the midseason acquisition. Belichick said Friday he’s seen continued improvement from Sanu in the five weeks since he joined the team.
“It?s more every week,” Belichick said. “Each week, there?s building blocks, and he can add some things or repeat things that have come up in previous weeks to improve the execution on them and communication. We?ve made a lot of progress. Definitely heading in the right direction. Definitely not there yet, either, but we?re gaining ground.”
Belichick said Sanu, who’s known for his intelligence and route-running ability, has needed time to adapt to New England’s offensive scheme after spending three and a half seasons with the Atlanta Falcons and the previous four with the Cincinnati Bengals. Sunday’s game will be his fifth in a Patriots uniform, assuming he’s active.
“He?s been in a couple different systems than what we run, so there?s some carryover, but there?s a lot of new things, too,” Belichick said. “But he?s a smart kid. He?s experienced. He?s played a lot of football, so a lot of the concepts, he?s dealt with before. The terminology and nomenclature and way it?s being presented might be a little bit different, but he can get it. That?s not really a problem.”
A dearth of secondary receiving threats has been a major problem for the Patriots of late. Against the Texans, Edelman and James White tallied 204 receiving yards between them. Sanu, Meyers, Dorsett, Harry, Ben Watson, Matt LaCosse and Rex Burkhead combined for 122.
Sanu said Friday he feels “pretty good,” both physically and in terms of learning the playbook and building chemistry with Brady. He expressed optimism for the Patriots’ receiving corps as a whole heading into a Chiefs matchup that carries major postseason implications.
“I feel like we’re doing the right job,” Sanu said. “This week, guys are preparing really well. We’ve still got a ways to go. We’ve still got two days (until game day), so we’ll take advantage of every moment we can.”