|Bengals coaches believe rookie WR Mohamed Sanu's physical style can open up the passing game. (US Presswire)|
By the time the Steelers concluded a 24-17 victory, Sanu made enough of an impression that in a crowded wide-receiver group, he's quickly risen from inactive to indispensable.
Sanu caught three passes for 27 yards and had a 7-yard rush. With Armon Binns nursing an injured ankle (he's expected back following the bye) and Marvin Jones' status up in the air for Denver, Sanu is being looked at to be a consistent, play-making receiver opposite A.J. Green.
“Mo brings a certain skill set to the table and he's by all accounts proven himself worthy of playing football,” wide receivers coach James Urban said. “The game's not too big for him, I can tell you that much.”
Sanu showed the coaches the difference he can make on the opening drive against Pittsburgh. On third-and-6 he caught a bubble screen and bounced off multiple tacklers to grind out two extra yards. Those yards allowed Marvin Lewis to go for it on fourth-and-1 instead of kicking a field goal. The drive ended in a touchdown.
He took a handoff between the tackles for seven yards. He hadn't played running back since his pee-wee days, but ran the play that was called. The same way he threw a 73-yard strike in stride to A.J. Green to open the game against Washington.
At 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, Sanu plays with a physicality that shows in his feel for zones and toughness to work in the slot. Those attributes served him well in college, where he set a Big East record with 210 passes for 2,263 yards at Rutgers. He believes his size can provide a matchup mismatch on the pro level as well.
“I feel like I do (have an advantage) a little bit,” Sanu said. “I'm big, strong, attack the ball pretty well and have a good advantage inside.”
Sanu's come along way this year. The coaches are planning on moving him outside and will see how he does over the bye week. Right now he's being used to spell slot WR Andrew Hawkins, who plays a key role as a gunner on special teams. When three-and-outs come in bunches as they did Sunday, it can wear the speedy Hawkins down.
Sanu splitting time with Hawkins makes all parties more effective.
“The thing I've always said about Mo is he's a gamer,” Urban said. “I thought that coming out of college. The more football the kid plays, I'm talking about game football on Sundays, the more you'll like him.”
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