It’s fairly well established that the New England Patriots’ offense is complicated and difficult for players to learn.
Former Patriots wide receiver Mohamed Sanu, who was acquired last season before the NFL trade deadline and cut this summer, told Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated that he had those same issues picking up New England’s system.
“It was definitely a hard playbook,” Sanu said. “I get playbooks very easily — I understand the Falcons playbook like the back of my hand. People would say I was the quarterback of the receivers. When somebody forgot what they had or didn’t know a call, I knew exactly what everybody had, so they’d come to me. And I learn quickly. But that offense was much different. It was a harder process. You had to study. You had figure out how to master it.”
Sanu told Breer that he had to take notes for the first time in his career.
Patriots quarterback Cam Newton, who was acquired this summer, acknowledged New England’s system is “advanced and so schematically driven by a specific reaction of how the defense, or what the defense is doing” while he specializes in “playing and reacting.” With Tom Brady at the helm, the strength of the Patriots’ offense was also in its complexity. With Brady gone, it might be more of a hindrance than a benefit.
Starters also are forced to practice more heavily in New England, which could be related to the complexity of the playbook.
“The way they practiced was a lot different than the way we practiced, the way I practiced in Atlanta,” Sanu said. “I had to adjust to that. Taking every rep vs. taking four or five reps per period, that was different. … (In Atlanta), they would manage your reps, so you’d be fresh for the game. But in New England, we’d take every rep, just so we could build chemistry. All the starters took every rep. I mean, I see why. It would just burn people out, you could get injured, that’s how I thought of it. A lot of people pulled stuff. …
“There’s no need for you to play 60 plays in a game and take four periods of nine plays — take nine plays each period. … That’s 36 plays each day on top of the game reps. It’s a lot.”
Sanu caught 10 passes for 81 yards with a touchdown in his second game with the Patriots but also suffered a Grade 3 high ankle sprain, according to Breer. Sanu returned after missing one week with an injury that typically takes 4-to-6 weeks of recovery time.
The Patriots have started the 2020 season 2-4, which will naturally will lead to more criticism. Sanu’s concerns seem valid and underscore some of the Patriots’ issues through the first seven weeks of the season.
The NFL trade deadline is Tuesday, Nov. 3 at 4 p.m. ET. The Patriots once again need help at wide receiver.