Patriots

Patriots

Every week during the NFL season, Tom E. Curran & Phil Perry will go head-to-head and offer their own takes on a Patriots or NFL-related question. Here's this week's topic:

Which receiver will be more valuable to the Patriots the rest of the way, N'Keal Harry or Mohamed Sanu?
 

I can get 1,000 percent behind the idea that the physicality of N’Keal Harry, his YAC ability, his gift for making acrobatic catches in traffic are singular talents he brings to the Patriots offense. 

He is their strongest and most explosive receiver and he’s barely peed a drop in the NFL. So why is Mohamed Sanu more valuable than Harry? You’ll never get the Which way do I go, which way do I go, Tom??” component from Sanu that Harry will bring in his first season in the NFL. I know that the returns from Sanu have been modest since he got here. He had that terrific game against the Ravens, injured his ankle, returned ASAP and hasn’t been the same player since with just 23 catches in seven games (10 of those coming against Baltimore). 

 

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He’s only catching 54.8 percent of the passes sent his way and on third and fourth-and-short, he’s been a disappointment on three different occasions. But I’m going to bet on two things with Sanu. 

First, he’s still getting back from the ankle and we haven’t seen him unimpeded. Second, he’s too good to go away from. If a defense takes away Julian Edelman – and they will try – Sanu is the only other receiver the Patriots could possibly feel comfortable targeting a dozen times and presuming to get a return on their investment.

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I was told there would be no math. You were told there would be no math. And yet, let's incorporate some math into the discussion. Think about the geometry involved when it comes to defending the Patriots. Think about the number of weapons the Patriots have to stress the short-to-intermediate area of the field: Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu, James White, Rex Burkhead. Think of the players who offer real value outside the numbers and down the field.

We haven't seen a significant body of work from Harry to this point, but we've seen enough to know that he is a rarity in this offense. He has the ability to make contested catches outside the numbers. He has the ability to go down the field and use his frame and body control to stress defensive backs for deeper shots. In the red zone, we've seen him execute an indefensible back-shoulder completion for a score.

There simply aren't many others on this team who can do the things he does. That's why the rookie will be the more valuable piece moving forward. Sanu may have more catches the rest of the way. He may end up with more yards. But I'm still willing to bank on the fact that Harry's contributions will be more explosive, and more instrumental in getting points on the board. Plus, at this point, I'm not so sure Sanu has the clear advantage in one area where you do.

At times he's looked like he's gone through some of the same brain cramps Harry had earlier this season. If Sanu being unaware of the timing of two separate fourth-down throws -- and being unaware of his blocking assignment on a fourth-down play last weekend -- isn't an example of, "Which way do I go, which way do I go, Tom??" then what is?