Mohamed Sanu

Patriots' Mohamed Sanu getting ready for 2020 season in new workout video

Patriots' Mohamed Sanu getting ready for 2020 season in new workout video

Mohamed Sanu is on to 2020.

The New England Patriots wide receiver is busy training for the upcoming season, and we recently got a look inside his offseason in a new workout video. Check it out in the tweet below:

Sanu was acquired by the Patriots from the Atlanta Falcons before the trade deadline this past season, so 2020 will be his first full campaign with New England.

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The veteran wideout made a huge impact in his second game with the Patriots when he tallied eight receptions for 81 yards and a touchdown in a loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 9. Sanu struggled mightily for the rest of the season, however, and he never found the end zone again. He posted 15 receptions for 114 yards over his last seven games, including the AFC Wild Card playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans.

In fairness to Sanu, he did battle through an ankle injury last season. Still, the Patriots need much better production from Sanu next season if their offense is going to make the necessary improvement toward being one of the league's best again.

Curran: The biggest hurdle to a new Tom Brady deal

Patriots 2020 NFL free agency primer: How will team address wide receivers?

Patriots 2020 NFL free agency primer: How will team address wide receivers?

Editor's Note: Phil Perry will be taking an in-depth look at each of the Patriots' position groups between now and when the NFL's 2020 free agency period begins, spotlighting the current roster and what names might be available on the market.

Like the running back position in New England, the Patriots could roll into 2020 with just about the same group if they so choose.

Julian Edelman is back. Same goes for Mohamed Sanu, N'Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski. Phillip Dorsett is the lone regular contributor from the 2019 receiver room who's set to hit free agency. Matthew Slater, almost exclusively a special-teamer, is scheduled to be a free agent as well. Though Meyers showed promise in spurts throughout his rookie season, only Edelman, Sanu and Harry look like guarantees to be on the roster. 

Will the Patriots be OK with that trio as their top three?

Does Meyers make sense as the No. 4? Or does there need to be a significant upgrade talent-wise made to this unit via free agency, shuffling the depth chart and giving whoever's playing quarterback -- Tom Brady or someone else -- better weapons to work with? What was available at times last season was ugly.

BREAKING DOWN THE CURRENT ROSTER

Julian Edelman: Headed into his 34-year-old season, it's worth wondering exactly how much the Patriots will be able to depend on Edelman. He did -- despite injuries to his ribs, shoulder and knee -- put up one of the most productive seasons of his career, cracking 1,000 yards.

Mohamed Sanu: After a promising start to his Patriots career, including a 10-catch performance against the Ravens midseason, Sanu tailed off. He suffered a high-ankle sprain and had just 14 catches on 26 targets following that game in Baltimore. The Patriots dealt a second-round pick to get him so he's probably not going anywhere ahead of the 2020 season. They'll just have to hope more time in the system, and better health, yields better outcomes. 

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N'Keal Harry: The rookie first-round pick lost the first half of his season to injured reserve and had trouble finding his footing upon his return. He finished the year with 12 catches for 105 yards on 24 targets in seven games. He flashed contested-catch promise with a touchdown against the Cowboys and a leaping grab in Cincinnati that was called back due to penalty -- he was also an effective runner on end-around plays -- but the Patriots will be looking for much more consistency in Year 2. 

Phillip Dorsett: The Patriots signed Dorsett to a one-year deal last offseason, in all likelihood hoping he could reprise his 2018 role as a valuable reserve. Pressed into more regular action, he wasn't as efficient a target for Brady and by the end of the season he was ceding reps to rookies. He could return via free agency this offseason if the Patriots want a familiar face to come back and be able to fill in. But it feels as though both sides might be willing to find a fresh start. 

Jakobi Meyers: After a strong summer, Meyers didn't exactly hit the ground running, but he did end up as the team's most productive rookie wideout. He averaged 13.8 yards per catch -- 0.1 behind what Emmaunel Sanders did in San Fran and what Brandin Cooks did in Los Angeles -- and no rookie caught more contested targets (seven of 10), according to Pro Football Focus.

Gunner Olszewski: The Bemidji State product was the last to make the active roster out of camp but stuck around long enough to play in eight games before landing on injured reserve. He caught just two passes for 34 yards -- both against the Giants in Week 6 when the Patriots were hurting at the receiver spot -- but chipped in as the team's regular punt-returner before his injury. He returned 20 for 179 yards (9.0 yards per return, 20th in the NFL). 

Matthew Slater: Slater heads into free agency after another First Team All-Pro selection as a special-teamer, his fifth. He played 20 snaps in 2019 -- all as a run-blocker.

WHO IS POTENTIALLY ON THE OPEN MARKET?

Amari Cooper: This would be a Ruthian hack in free agency. Cooper might cost almost $20 million per year on whatever new deal he signs. The Patriots, though, have been bold in adding talent to their roster when they see glaring issues. Would they be this bold?

Seems unlikely that the Patriots would devote the necessary resources to land this one-time Nick Saban pupil, but it'd infuse the wideout room in New England with some much-needed, in-his-prime talent. If Tom Brady is willing to take pennies on the dollar to stick in New England with the promise that he'll have more to work with in 2020, Cooper should be the team's top-of-the-list item.

A.J. Green: The Patriots are in need of a vertical presence in the passing game. For years that was Rob Gronkowski. Hard to replicate that skill set at tight end, so it may have to be a receiver. After a year off, it's hard to know exactly how Green would fill this role . . . but it's what he's done for the majority of his career.

He'd be a much cheaper option than Cooper ($9 million per year might get it done), and he might be itching to play for a competitor. Green would make more sense than going after Emmanuel Sanders, another 30-something free agent this offseason, since the Patriots are already loaded up on interior veteran pass-catchers in Sanu and Edelman. 

POTENTIAL FREE-AGENT FIXES: FAMILIAR FACE

Danny Amendola: The Patriots might be set in the slot. But wouldn't it make sense to have a trusted option on the inside should Julian Edelman be forced to miss time due to injury? Amendola filled that role admirably in 2014 and 2016 when Edelman was healthy for the majority of the year. It allowed Amendola to sit back for portions of the year and then be used more liberally in the postseason.

He knows the offense. He wouldn't be looking to break the bank at this point in his career. He still holds respect for the organization, and anything he said upon his departure from New England in 2018 would be water under the bridge if Bill Belichick felt as though his receiver group would be better off with Amendola in it. 

POTENTIAL FREE-AGENT FIXES: UNDER-THE-RADAR OPTIONS

Breshad Perriman: It wasn't all that long ago that Perriman looked like the perfect Patriots reclamation project. They've had a long list of failed first-round draft picks come through their recevier room -- Dorsett, Kenny Britt, Cordarrelle Patterson -- and Perriman could've been the latest.

The only problem? He tore it up at the end of the 2019 season for the Bucs, finishing with career-highs in catches (36), yards (645) and touchdowns (6) while playing for his third team in his four-year career. He'd be a clever solution to New England's vertical issues, but he might've priced himself out of Patriots consideration with what he did at the end of the year.

Travis Benjamin: A much different type of vertical threat than Perriman (who stands 6-foot-2, 215 pounds), Benjamin is a mini-burner at 5-10, 175 pounds. He was placed on injured reserve in October of last season so his numbers were down across the board, but he's averaged over 15.0 yards per catch for his career and he has a wealth of return experience. He might be a cost-effective gamble at the position this offseason. 

Pharoh Cooper: The Rams took Cooper in the fourth round in 2016, and he went on to win First-Team All-Pro honors the following year for his work in the return game. For his career, he's returned 66 punts for 619 yards and 92 kicks for 2,213 yards.

The 5-foot-11, 200 pounder also finished with the eighth-best catch rate from the slot in 2019, according to PFF. He had 25 catches for 243 yards and a touchdown on the season. If the Patriots wanted some young depth in the slot, Cooper might be a good option. Sanu is in the final year of his deal and Edelman's contract runs out after 2021.

Perry's Mailbag: Does Meyers hold key to Pats' January success?

Perry's Mailbag: Does Meyers hold key to Pats' January success?

In this week's mailbag, we talk about receivers who could key the postseason, whether this is the week we finally get a ton of Damien Harris action, and setting the early table for 2020 . . .

For Jakobi Meyers to be able to reel in all three targets — one in a contested situation deep in Bills territory, one off a play-action fake — was significant. Not only should that do wonders for his confidence, but it should do wonders for Tom Brady’s confidence in him. Meyers’ contributions highlighted one of the themes Bill Belichick pointed to after the game. He went out of his way to note the number of players who stepped up against Buffalo.

Against a playoff team, with plenty on the line, perhaps enough wasn’t made of what Meyers did. Or what Marshall Newhouse did at right tackle. Or what Matt LaCosse and Ben Watson did at tight end. Or what Rex Burkhead gave them. Or how Joejuan Williams stepped up, and how JC Jackson stepped into a slot defender role with Jonathan Jones out. Or how Nick Folk came through when needed. The Patriots of course had key contributions from guys like Tom Brady, Julian Edelman and Dont’a Hightower.

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But to have that many role players perform, with the No. 2 seed and the division still up for grabs, against that level of competition, could be a harbinger of good things to come for the Patriots moving forward. They’ll need more than just their stars if they hope to get to where they want to be.

He should be able to, Pat. We aren’t THAT far removed from 10 catches and a touchdown — often working out of the hurry-up — in Baltimore. I’d attribute some of his struggles to the ankle. I think some are due to his unfamiliarity with the details of certain assignments. For instance, when he forgot to block someone on fourth-and-one last week, that wasn’t because of the ankle he injured weeks ago. There’s a reason the Patriots paid a second-rounder to get him. He might not be worth that kind of compensation. But he’s better than what he’s given them.

Not sure how there could be any frustration with his role, simply because he’s played more than any Patriots wideout recently. He’s an every-down guy for them. And yet the production has been what it’s been. If they can get anything out of him — with Julian Edelman continuing to grind through, and N’Keal Harry showing signs of growth — it’d be huge for this offense. 

Let’s peg it at two years and $30 million. Not the top of the market. But right there with Matt Ryan in terms of average annual value. Would put him ahead of guys like Jimmy Garoppolo and Kirk Cousins. Feels right. I’m of the mind, at this point, that deal won’t be coming from the Patriots. 

THIS. IS. (MAYBE?) YOUR. TIME. People have been clamoring to see Damien Harris all season. Sony Michel is now questionable to play Sunday because of an illness. If Michel can’t go, expect Harris to be active. The reason he rookie hasn’t played more as of yet is multi-pronged. 1) He’s a rookie. Pass-protection is difficult for rookies. 2) There’s depth at the position and no one has been injured. Running backs coach Ivan Fears acknowledged this was one of the primary reasons we haven’t seen Harris much. The Patriots like him, Fears said. There’s just not much in the way of opportunity. 3) As disappointing as has been Michel’s production this year, the coaching staff has put a good deal of his relative lack of success on the blocking in front of him. Getting downhill too deliberately has been an issue at times, as well, but clearly the staff didn’t think that was so bad that they’d rather see Harris.

I think Dante Scarnecchia’s relationship is one of several that helped encourage Josh McDaniels in his decision to stick in New England. I still think that was due more in part to getting a greater commitment from ownership here in New England and some hesitation about the situation in Indy. 

I’ve been a fan of N’Keal Harry’s skill set even prior to the draft, and so you can probably guess me answer here. Tom E. Curran and I went back and forth on this question in this week’s Point/Counterpoint

I’d pick the Ravens as the tougher matchup in any locale. If they meet the Patriots, and if the Patriots land the No. 2 seed, them that game will be played in Baltimore.

As things stand right now, Harry gives the Patriots a better big-play threat than Phillip Dorsett. The rookie’s ability to beat one on one coverage with his size alone, turn runs into chunk gains, and win in the red zone make him a better fit as the team’s No. 3. That’s where he’s slotted in lately, pushing Dorsett to a (totally capable) No. 4 role. 

1. Brady. I don’t think he’ll be back, but whether he’s here or not will have a greatest say in how the team’s record will look in 2020. He’s the obvious No. 1 of we’re just going be importance. 

2. Thuney. One of the best guards in football. Critical to keeping the quarterback, whoever that is, healthy. He’s in line to see a serious pay day this offseason and could be tough to retain. 

3. Devin McCourty. He’s the brains of the secondary operation. The secondary is the team’s greatest strength. Pretty simple. 

4. Kyle Van Noy. Versatile. The team’s most consistent pass-rusher. Someone who will get pod come March. 

5. Jamie Collins. Still a Swiss Army knife type for Bill Belichick. 

There were several who looked like Patriots fits. Maybe 2020 is the year. We may learn more as the pre-draft process plays out, but it doesn’t look like an incredibly strong tight end class. 

Huge. Still, I think it’s a Patriots cover, 31-13. Happy New Year, friends. 

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