Matt Lengel, James Develin and Mohamed Sanu.
What do these three players have in common? They’re all going to Super Bowl 51 and they’re all former Bengals players. Lengel and Develin will be suiting up for the New England Patriots, while Sanu has played a major role in getting the Atlanta Falcons to the their first Super Bowl in nearly two decades.
These three players are doing what the Bengals have been unable to do since 1989, they are heading to the biggest game of the year and you can bet many of their former teammates are jealous.
Lengel was on the Bengals' practice squad for most of the 2016 season, until the Patriots signed him to their 53-man roster on November 2. Signed by the Bengals as an undrafted free agent out of EKU in 2015, Lengel also spent last season on the Bengals’ practice squad. Lengel's college career was derailed by season-ending injuries in 2012 and 2013, resulting in only 34 career receptions (16 in 2014) for 367 yards receiving and two touchdowns, both of which came in 2011. With Rob Gronkowski on Injured Reserve and Martellus Bennett constantly banged up but playing through injury, Lengel is the No. 2 tight end on the Patriots’ roster (and there’s no No. 3). With the Patriots, he has caught two passes for 22 yards and 1 touchdown. He has yet to record any statistics in the postseason, though he has been active in both games.
Develin started his football career in the Arena Football League and then the United Football League before the Bengals signed him to their practice squad on November 30, 2010. He also spent the 2011 season on the team's practice squad before getting waived during final roster cuts in 2012. The Patriots then signed him to their practice squad, but he was promoted to the roster mid-way through the 2012 season. Develin, who's the Patriots only fullback, has caught five passes for 31 yards this season and postseason combined. He's actually ranked as Pro Football Focus' #2 fullback in the league and he's played a steady amount of snaps all season, while having a moderate role in the Patriots' offense.
Most notably, Sanu is the only player going to the Super Bowl who spent time on the Bengals’ 53 man roster. A third round pick by Cincinnati in the 2012 NFL Draft, Sanu served as mostly the Bengals' No. 3 wide receiver during his time in Cincinnati, but at times was thrust into the No. 2 and even No. 1 role due to injury. Sanu played in 57 games as a Bengal, catching 152 passes for 1,793 yards and 11 touchdowns in four seasons. He also rushed for 153 yards on 26 attempts and added two touchdowns on the ground. And, on top of that, he threw five passes, all of which were completions for 177 yards and 2 touchdowns. A triple threat, Sanu has helped the Falcons in a big way this season after leaving the Bengals in the 2016 offseason. He is graded as PFF's 19th ranked wide receiver this season.
This will be the Falcons’ second Super Bowl appearance, the first was following the 1998 NFL season, when they lost to the Broncos in Super Bowl XXXIII. The Patriots have played in nine Super Bowls, six during the Tom Brady and Bill Belichick era alone, and won four, all in Brady and Belichick’s time in New England. Most recently, the Patriots won in the 2014 season (February 2015), a great game against the Seattle Seahawks.
While the Falcons paid a great deal of money for Sanu in the 2016 offseason, if they win the Super Bowl next Sunday, it was likely worth the money.
Go Falcons and go Sanu! It would be great to see the former Bengals player win a championship.