"Who is going to man the No.2 receiver spot in 2013?". We've heard the question about the Bengals since the 2012 season came to a close with a disappointing end against the Houston Texans in the Wild Card round. They have all-world wide receiver A.J. Green, but opposing defenses have double and triple-bracketed him with coverage, keeping the offense honest. If this offense wants to take the next step this year, a wide receiver not named Green will need to step up and contribute.
There was a brief period of about four or five games where the Bengals seemed to have found the answer to this question in Mohamed Sanu. Last year's third round pick began to hit his stride about midseason, where he had four touchdown receptions in a three-game stretch and showed the ability to move the chains. An unfortunate foot injury in practice wiped out the rest of Sanu's rookie season and the offense lost a sense of consistency the rest of the year.
Regardless, the Bengals have shown extreme confidence in the second-year man out of Rutgers. Though they added a pass-catcher in the first round in tight end Tyler Eifert, the team didn't draft another wide receiver until the sixth round in Cobi Hamiltion out of Arkansas (who had a nice game on Saturday himself). We know that the coaching staff likes Marvin Jones, though it has been made clear that Sanu will most frequently be on the field as their No.2 wideout.
Though there were many positives in the preseason opener against the Falcons, Sanu wasn't one of them. He didn't record a catch on two targets, and really didn't do anything to alleviate the concerns from last year. I kicked around the idea of writing a post earlier this week expressing the importance of this week's game for Sanu, but didn't get around to it. Just because I didn't, doesn't mean that I changed my stance on that idea.
Fortunately for Bengals fans, Sanu rebounded nicely on Saturday against the Titans. On five targeted passes his way, Sanu had three receptions for 36 yards (12 yards per catch) and a nice little touchdown grab on a fade throw by Andy Dalton. He flashed the ability to move the sticks and make red zone plays--two areas that the Bengals offense needs to improve upon this year.
Though they will be relying on a cast of players to take defensive pressure off of Green, Sanu will be a key cog in that plan. The good news is that he showed progression from week-to-week in the preseason, and with Week Three being a "dress rehearsal", Sanu will hopefully continue to prove that he's the main guy opposite Green in this offense.