Nick Mensio

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On Mohamed Sanu & Marvin Jones

Saturday, July 06, 2013

This past week, I took a look at Bengals sophomore wideouts Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones’ rookie-year snaps to get a better feel for each receiver’s playing style, and short- and long-term outlooks. It was easy to watch both players closely through the entirety of the season. Sanu and Jones rotated games for the first six weeks. Sanu starred from Weeks 7-12, while Jones nursed a torn MCL. Jones was then thrust into the starting lineup in Week 13, after Sanu broke his foot in practice. They were on the field at the same time for only a handful of snaps.

Sanu was drafted in the third round, and Jones entered the league as a fifth-rounder. Sanu starred as a possession receiver in three seasons at Rutgers, and also dabbled at quarterback and running back. As a senior, Jones played second fiddle to Keenan Allen at California.

After a review of all 572 combined regular-season snaps played by both receivers, I came away a bit more impressed with the former Scarlet Knight. I charted every snap each receiver played. Here were my takeaways:

The Bengals’ 2012 Offense

Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden brought a West Coast philosophy to Cincinnati when coach Marvin Lewis hired him away from the UFL's Florida Tuskers in 2011. Jay, the brother of Jon, spent a lot of time coaching in lower-level pro leagues, but did have seven years of experience as an offensive assistant on his brother’s Buccaneers staff (2002-08).

Gruden prefers a balanced attack centered on power runs and short-to-intermediate throws. Andy Dalton finished smack in the middle of the league – 15th – with 528 pass attempts. Although BenJarvus Green-Ellis ended the year with the NFL's eighth-most carries (278), he got a lot of work as a clock-killer. Gruden's style of offense suits Sanu’s skill set better than it does Jones.


Both Sanu and Jones missed significant time due to injuries. Jones’ Week 7 MCL tear kicked the door wide open for Sanu. Prior to Jones' injury, Gruden said the fifth-rounder had been “coming on like gangbusters” in practice and was scheduled to play heavy snaps against the Steelers that week. Sanu took the opportunity and ran with it. After playing just 18 snaps over the first six weeks, Sanu played close to 200 over the next four contests. Then, he encountered bad luck. Sanu’s season ended when he broke a bone in his foot during the Week 13 practice week; the same week Jones returned to full health. Neither player had a history of college injuries.

Snap Breakdown

I charted Sanu with 208 snaps on the season – 70 lined up wide left (33.7 percent), 20 wide right (9.6 percent), 112 in the slot (53.8 percent), five in the backfield as a running back (five carries for 15 yards), and one at quarterback (73-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Green in Week 3 versus the Redskins). Sanu goes 6-foot-2, 211, but his 4.6 wheels limit him to a between-the-numbers role in the passing game. When lined up out wide, he typically played “Z” off the line of scrimmage. Sanu’s toughness and “get off” were questioned entering the league, so keeping him away from defensive back jams made sense.

I had Jones down for 364 snaps – 190 wide left (52.2 percent), 104 wide right (28.6 percent), 68 in the slot (18.7 percent), and two in the backfield on kneel downs. The two second-year receivers play different styles. Jones played a lot of “X," along with “Z.” Jones is much more physical than Sanu, and putting him up in the face of cornerbacks doesn’t bother him as much. I’d venture to say that over 90 percent of Jones’ slot snaps came on run plays. Jones is a very willing blocker, and the Bengals often motioned him close to the ball to get him involved in the run game. It got to the point where any time Jones was in the slot, Gruden was clearly going to call a run.

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Nick Mensio is a football writer for The 2014 NFL season marks his third with Rotoworld. He can be found on Twitter at @NickMensio.
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