Patriots

Mohamed Sanu hip to Tom Brady fourth-down hot route: 'We're going to have some fun'

Mohamed Sanu hip to Tom Brady fourth-down hot route: 'We're going to have some fun'

FOXBORO — Tom Brady smiled wide as he spoke to the newest member of the Patriots offense inside the Patriots locker room Sunday night. Seemed like, as far as Brady was concerned, Mohamed Sanu was already fitting in just fine.

"Great job, man," Brady said as he went in for a hug. "That's awesome."

Sanu ended up playing 36 snaps in his Patriots debut, a 27-13 win over the Browns. It wasn't a full workload, but he was able to do a little bit of everything in his first live foray into the Patriots offense.

He played in the slot and outside. He blocked. He caught two passes for 23 yards. And he got to see how the Patriots celebrate.

"[Matthew] Slater gave probably the best postgame speech I've ever heard in my life," he said. "I mean, it was unbelievable. I was ready to go play another whole game. I was like, 'What!?' They were like, 'He does this after every game.' I was like, 'Wow.' It was incredible."

It was the culmination of a busy week for the 30-year-old receiver. On Tuesday, the Patriots sent a second-round pick to the Falcons in order to acquire Sanu. He quickly made his way to Foxboro from Cincinnati without even a change of clothes, he said.

🏈 PATRIOTS 27, BROWNS 13

On Wednesday, Bill Belichick joked that he and Sanu had gone "way back" to Sanu's days at Rutgers when he was teammates with Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon and Steve Belichick. (He missed Jason McCourty by a year.) Sanu practiced with the Patriots for the first time Wednesday afternoon.

Through the week, he put in extra time with receivers coach Joe Judge and assistant Troy Brown, watching film and going over formations. At night, he took part in walkthroughs with younger receivers on the team, trying to get as much as he could of the Patriots offense down before the Browns got to town.

Between Judge, Brown, Brady, Josh McDaniels, Julian Edelman and Phillip Dorsett, Sanu had plenty of mentors to lean on.

"He worked really hard," Belichick said. "He spent a lot of extra time with everybody, especially Joe and Troy. Obviously, Josh, Tom and the other receivers, Phil and Jules and those guys. But he worked hard, and I thought he gained a lot of ground on the offense. Hopefully, he'll be further ahead next week but I'm glad he's here and hopefully he'll be able to contribute for us."

"I think it’s just going to be more and more confidence as he keeps going," Brady said. "He made a huge catch for us on fourth down, had a good crosser that he made a nice catch on, so keep just trying to find ways to get him the ball."

Brady tried to get Sanu the ball on the first drive of the game. On a second-and-nine snap, Sanu ran a quick stop route from the slot between two defenders. Brady's pass was low and to Sanu's left — he might've anticipated that Sanu would stop sooner — and it glanced off the receiver's hands incomplete.

🏈 PATRIOTS 27, BROWNS 13

It wasn't until the first play of the next drive that Sanu really made an impact play. On a crack toss to the left of the offensive formation, Sanu motioned down toward the line and laid a block on defensive end Myles Garrett. Sony Michel ran for seven yards, and Sanu was settled in.

"Gotta get that first contact to get your blood flowing," he said after the game. Then it's like, 'All right. Cool. Time to lock in.' " 

In the second quarter, Sanu made his first catch on a fourth-down play that served as statement to anyone who's watched the Patriots offense over the years. Brady's trust in critical spots isn't easily earned. That he was willing to throw to his newest teammate on a fourth-down snap early in the game spoke volumes. 

It served as an indication that the offense was short on chain-moving options after Edelman and James White. It also made it pretty clear that — whether it was based on his history with the Falcons or simply where Sanu was situated on the field for that particular play — Brady believed in him as a go-to option with a turnover on downs looming if it didn't go well. 

If Sanu wasn't at the right depth, if his hands weren't ready, the Patriots were giving the football away. 

Not only was he ready, not only was he at just the right depth (the Browns actually challenged the spot unsuccessfully), but the play was the result of Sanu picking up Brady's "alert" signal before the snap and remembering an adjustment Brady told him about early in the week. If the Browns brought pressure against that particular alignment with Sanu as "No. 3" — the inner-most option in a three-receiver alignment — he'd have to react quickly.

The Browns sent five pass-rushers, and Sanu recalled back to the hot route Brady told him about early in the week.

"He saw the same thing I saw," Sanu said. "We was on the same page, and I just made sure I was at the right place at the right time for him. We talked about it earlier in the week. He was like, 'Just be prepared if we're in this formation and this...' [That's] exactly what happened. Exactly. I saw him, I saw it, and I was like, 'Bet.' We just executed."

They executed again later in the game when Brady threw one of several pinpoint passes on the night to Sanu on a deep over route in the fourth quarter. As Sanu trotted out of bounds with a first down, the Gillette Stadium crowd cheered, "SANUUUUUU!"

"We're gonna get more of that going," Sanu said of the response. "We're gonna get more of that going . . . I heard it. I was like, 'All right.' It gave me a little more juice."

The Patriots are hoping Sanu will give their offense more juice moving forward as he picks up more and more with each game plan. There's certainly room for growth as that side of the ball went 7-for-18 on third and fourth-down conversion attempts and 2-for-6 in the red zone against Cleveland. 

As Brady left the locker room to handle his postgame media responsibilities, he told Sanu to come back ready to work. They had one game in the books together, and while there was enough there to make the quarterback (a quarterback who reportedly pushed for Sanu to be New England's trade target ahead of the deadline) smile wide after the fact, they knew they'd only scratched the surface of what they should be able to do after some time together.

"Once I get my feet wet a little more," Sanu said, "we're gonna have some fun."

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Cam Newton provides update after openly wondering how he'd 'mesh' with Bill Belichick

Cam Newton provides update after openly wondering how he'd 'mesh' with Bill Belichick

How well will Cam Newton and Bill Belichick work together, we've wonderedNewton asked himself the same question when he found out that the Patriots were interested in signing him earlier this offseason. 

He shared his thought process on YouTube during a roundtable discussion with Victor Cruz, Odell Beckham and Todd Gurley: "I said, 'Hold on. How, how is me and Belichick gonna mesh?' You know what I'm saying?"

Well . . . plenty of time has elapsed since then. Newton and his new Patriots teammates have been at Gillette Stadium this week going through what Belichick has compared to the NFL's typical "Phase 1," which usually takes place in the spring and consists of meetings as well as strength and conditioning workouts.

So how has it gone? How have Newton and his new head coach meshed?

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"Listen, listen," Newton said during a WebEx conference call with reporters Friday. "There's a lot of things that I say that there's a perception, but at the end of the day, it's football. I've loved it ever since I've been here. 

"I've been here, going on a week, now and you hear rumors about certain things, but once you finally get settled in on things like that, none of that really matters. It's just all about finding a way to prove your worth on the team."

Belichick has coached all types of personalities, and had success with all types, during his Patriots tenure. Tom Brady was different than Rob Gronkowski, who was different than Randy Moss, who was different than Corey Dillon, who was different than Richard Seymour, who was different than Willie McGinest, who was different than Tedy Bruschi, who was different than Matt Light. 

Newton is a unique personality with a unique skill set who may require a unique approach from the Patriots coaching staff when it comes to drawing out his best. And there may be some bumps in the road as the team finds the right path to maximizing Newton's stay in Foxboro. But for now, according to Newton, everything is going swimmingly. 

It helps that before Newton even set foot inside the team's facilities, they'd established a track record that has him ready to buy into Belichick's way of doing things. 

"I'm still constantly -- I don't want to say in disbelief, but it's just a surreal moment," Newton said. "Nobody really knows how excited I am just to be a part of this organization in (more) ways than one.

"Following up such a powerful dynasty that has so much prestige and lineage of success -- a lot of people would hide from the notion to do certain things, but for me, I think this opportunity is something that I wake up pinching myself each and every day."

Patriots' Cam Newton says there's nothing to worry about with his health: 'I feel amazing'

Patriots' Cam Newton says there's nothing to worry about with his health: 'I feel amazing'

Jarrett Stidham may feel like he has a chance to be the starting quarterback in New England. Bill Belichick may be looking forward to having an open competition at that position. But if Cam Newton really feels the way he says he does, the decision could be closer to final than anyone is willing to admit at the moment.

Asked if he'd be restricted at all by his surgically-repaired right shoulder, Newton replied in no uncertain terms. 

"At this part point in time, sir," he said, "I'm a full go."

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Newton needed to go under the knife in both 2017 and 2019 to fix up his shoulder. The most recent procedure came in January of last year, after a midseason hit to his right side in 2018 mangled the upper portion of his arm, impacted his delivery, and waylaid his performance in a season when through eight games he was near the top of the league in a number of statistical passing categories.

It was a foot injury in the summer of last year that limited him to just two games played in the regular season. That led to surgery in December. 

But almost a year removed from the foot issue, and 18 months removed from his most recent shoulder procedure, Newton told reporters on Friday that he has made his way to New England in very good health. After fighting through injury for each of the last two years, he may be closer to the Newton that beat up on the Patriots back in 2017 than anyone realizes.

"Just right now, for me, this season's not here yet so I do still have time," Newton said. "Working with the training staff here as well as having all the outlets at your disposal to get better and to be as confident come opening day, or when the team may need you, I think that's the most important thing. 

"As far as how I feel right now, I feel amazing. I feel great. Not any different than any other person in that locker room right now so I'm extremely optimistic about that. Through it all, it's just putting yourself in position to be in the best shape and having your body in the best possible situation when you actually need it."

Though he used words like "amazing" and "great" to describe his health, it sounded like Newton wanted to hedge a bit. Perhaps even he knows there's a lot that can happen between now and the start of the regular season when it comes to his well-being. After all, last time he got hurt badly was on the Gillette Stadium turf, trying to avoid a hit early in a meaningless preseason game. 

But for now he's healthy. And he's motivated. Some of that is inherent. He didn't necessarily need to be released by the team that drafted him, he didn't need to linger on the free-agent market for months to experience the sensation propelling him forward in this new chapter of his career.

"I don't have to prove nothing," he said. "Especially not to nobody. I have to prove to myself. That's a daily challenge. I don't think nobody's expectations will ever surpass my expectations for myself. I'm just looking forward to the challenge. 

"Knowing, picking up this whole system, not only the philosophical way of the offense but also how things are ran. This is a new team. I've only been geared by one particular team and one particular city. Now moving to a whole nother residence has kind of put the onus on trying to adapt. That has been the rather interesting part."

Still, there is a part of Newton -- a part that he's not afraid to show on social media -- that wants to let people know he's ticked. 

The Panthers get some, though he said he wishes them "nothing but the best," because he's been uprooted. The rest of the league gets some because it allowed players like Marcus Mariota and Andy Dalton to sign before him (and for more money). But he's using that as "fuel," he explained.

"Look, I wake up mad," he said. "Know what I'm saying? The fact that I'm not able to see my kids on a regular basis, that's what makes me mad. At the end of the day, for me, I'm not gonna dwell on the past. I'm a self-motivator. Even though the past is the past, I'm not gonna keep looking back."

That approach usually plays for Belichick and the Patriots. If it's the one Newton will carry with him to his new team, and if he's healthy, then odds are he'll be playing too.