The Cincinnati Bengals posted on their website on Friday night that Mohamed Sanu suffered a stress fracture in practice that will likely keep him out for the rest of the season. Sanu had four receiving touchdowns in the last three games including one very impressive one-handed catch against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Mohamed Sanu was drafted in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft, coming out of Rutgers. His senior year he garnered 115 catches for over 1,200 yards. That's more catches than the likes of rookies Michael Floyd, Stephen Hill, Alshon Jeffery and Kendall Wright, all of whom were taken earlier in the draft. His hands were clearly his most impressive feature, paired with precise route-running.
Sanu entered the Bengals organization and early sentiments seemed to suggest he would be the new No. 2 receiver, with Jerome Simpson leaving Cincinnati. But Sanu disappointed in practice, doing very little to make himself stand out in a group of young, talented receivers.
In the first four games of the season, Sanu was very unremarkable. The only stat he recorded was a passing touchdown when he was put in a Wildcat set against the Redskins. Yet to make a name for himself as a receiver, the Rutgers rookie was already showing evidence of versatility.
In the last three games he played, Sanu was incredible. Although he only racked up 98 receiving yards across the three game, he had four receiving touchdowns. His first came against the New York Giants, the start of what is now a team three-game winning streak. That's no coincidence.
Sanu showcased himself in several sets. Although he hasn't been seen in the Wildcat again, he has been the backfield a few times taking snap at running back and performing very well, notably getting a big first down in last week's game against the Chiefs.
Sanu is a competitor, the Bengals have come to realize. He didn't do great in practice, but put him in against a real opponent and he shines. And now, he's gone.
This is very, very bad news for Cincinnati. Right when it looked as though they had found their sought after No. 2, they find him injured. Who steps up now?
The best bet is Marvin Jones. The rookie out of California fell to the fifth round in the draft despite being projected a late second rounder, rated 11th in a deep receiver class. He possesses great speed and good size. He's been largely irrelevant this season with just three catches but has seen his playing time stunted due to injury. He undoubtedly has the ability to be a downfield threat, he just needs to earn Andy Dalton's trust as Sanu did.
The next best option is Armon Binns out of the University of Cincinnati. He was inactive last week, likely due to a lingering ankle injury, but this kid can flat out play. He's more of a prototypical receiver than Jones or Sanu, possessing great size and big range. His hands are better than Jones' as well. If healthy, I fully expect him to get the start in front of Jones, but that remains to be seen.
As for the other receiving options, Andrew Hawkins is coming off an injury that's had him sidelined for a couple of weeks. He is also far too undersized to present a real threat downfield. He's great for gadget plays and could easily lead the team in yards-after-catch if healthy, but there is just no way he starts opposite Green.
Brandon Tate hasn't had a game with more than one reception since Week 2. He's been assigned strictly to the return game. And Ryan Whalen? He's never shown even a spark of the ability required to start for an NFL team. I'll be surprised if he even gets on the field against the Chargers.
Someone must step up in Sanu's absence. There's a big starting spot up for grabs, the only question is who is going to take it?