Boston (WBZ)- The New England Patriots’ record is unblemished heading into Week 8 of their title-defense season. A perfect 7-0, with a defense being considered among the greatest of all time, the Pats used this week as an opportunity to upgrade the weaponry in Tom Brady’s arsenal on offense. The team acquired Mohamed Sanu from the Atlanta Falcons.
The 30-year-old Sanu joins a receiver corps that already features Julian Edelman and Phillip Dorsett, but lost Josh Gordon on Thursday when the team placed him on injured reserve. As the team gears up for Sunday’s matchup against the Cleveland Browns on CBS, we caught up with NFL on CBS analyst and former NFL wide receiver James Lofton to get his thoughts on Sanu’s fit within the Patriots system.
“He was not in the role of an outside receiver so much when he was with the Atlanta Falcons,” said Lofton. “But what he provides for the Patriots is a big, physical presence, 215, 220 pounds, willing to catch the ball in between the numbers. You have another go-to guy who’s a short-range target for Tom Brady.”
Sanu’s stats to this point in the season (33 receptions 313 yards) would make him the second-leading receiver on the Patriots. A physical, possession receiver fits the mold of a player Brady can use well. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, the Pats QB is in the bottom third of the league in average intended air yards, with his attempts going about seven yards. His completed passes air yards is lower, at 5.8, again in the bottom part of the league in that category. But, those numbers are due to the fact that Brady gets the ball out of his hands quickly (2.58 seconds Time To Throw) with wide receivers winning at the line of scrimmage.
Sanu does just that, ranking 11th among receivers in average yards of separation. He also has been reliable in terms of hauling in passes thrown his way, with a 78.6% catch rate this year. New weapon in tow, the Patriots welcome the preseason darling Cleveland Browns to Gillette Stadium.
As Lofton points out, “beware the head that wears the preseason crown.” Things have not gone the way that Cleveland had hoped they would in Year 1 of Freddie Kitchens’ regime. A 2-4 record, offense that ranks 23rd in scoring (20 PPG) and regression from second-year quarterback Baker Mayfield has left a team that some were predicting as a contender for a playoff spot searching for answers.
Those answers won’t come easily against a Patriots defense that, according to Lofton, “passes the eyeball test” in coverage, blitzes and in stopping the run. The stats back up what we have borne witness to, with the unit ranking first in scoring defense (6.9 PPG), total yards (223.1), and efficiency. While some may quibble with this defense being called one of the best ever due to their schedule, Lofton is quick to point out that, “Whoever they’ve played, they’ve made [to] look really, really bad.”
On Monday night, the Pats D had second-year quarterback Sam Darnold “seeing ghosts,” so the question remains, what can the Browns muster?
“The Browns do have skill position players obviously, Odell Beckham Jr, Jarvis Landry and maybe most importantly Nick Chubb at running back, who’s I believe fourth in the NFL in rushing,” said Lofton. “So maybe having a runner who is of an elite caliber, which the Jets did, but also having receivers on the outside, maybe the play-action passing game gets going early. I think that can help out Baker Mayfield. And if they get on a roll, Baker Mayfield has the kind of moxy, the kind of gamesmanship to maybe try and challenge the Patriots. But it’s not going to be easy.”
The Patriots host the Browns on Sunday, October 27th with kick-off slated for 4:25 p.m. Eastern Time on CBS. Jim Nantz, Tony Romo and Tracy Wolfson will have the call.