Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Mohamed Sanu is scheduled to undergo surgery on Monday, according to NFL.com. Sanu is having surgery to correct a stress fracture and is expected to miss between two and three months as he recovers. For the rookie receiver, this setback couldn’t have come at a worse time.
Sanu was enjoying his best stretch of the season, and by proxy his career, over the team’s past three games. On 11 receptions, Sanu has 98 yards and four touchdowns. His most recent outing against the Oakland Raiders resulted in a season high five receptions and two touchdowns. His two touchdowns came in the redzone as he proved himself to be a threat both with his agility and size.
Fortunately for the Bengals, Andrew Hawkins and Marvin Jones are set to return this weekend against the San Diego Chargers. Hawkins in particular is more than capable of replacing Sanu’s production as a former starter. Even though Sanu had been developing into a difference maker for the Bengals on their run at a wildcard spot in the playoffs, the team should be able to keep on track without him.
What is more worrying for the franchise in regards to Sanu’s loss is the long-term development of the receiver himself. While stress fractures aren’t injuries that typically have long-lasting effects on careers, like a torn ACL or repeated concussions, Sanu is about to miss significant time at a point when he was establishing himself as a worthy starter and dangerous redzone receiver.
Professional football players only get so much time on the field in competitive situations against live opposition to develop. For rookies, every moment they can spend on the field during the regular season is invaluable. Just like how the Bengals eased him into a bigger role with the team, he needed this time to help him establish a base at this level on which to build for the future.
Now that his participation has been limited to just nine games, three starts, 16 receptions and 154 yards, by the time Sanu gets back on the field next season, he will essentially be starting all over again. In just 209 snaps, his total for the season, Sanu won’t have experienced every scenario he can possibly face as a receiver for the first time in his first season. With Jones, Hawkins, Armon Binns and Ryan Whalen now getting the opportunities that Sanu would have had moving forward this season, Sanu may not also be instantly inserted into the lineup at the beginning of next season either.
Sanu did a lot to help himself this season, but even as a third round draft pick he still has to earn his place and develop a lot before he establishes himself as a starting caliber receiver in this league.