Hitting the mid-point of the NFL season and most leagues only have maybe six more regular-season games. Here’s a brief look at six things I’ve been thinking about.
- Mohamed Sanu – The Patriots acquired the 30-year old Sanu who is under contract through 2020. He’s a good fit into the complex New England offense because he can do pretty much everything. He’s a great blocker and a solid slot receiver. Sanu was a high school quarterback and his seven completions in the NFL resulted in four touchdowns. The Patriots have tried in the past to acquire him. Josh Gordon is on IR (if not to be released) and both Phillip Dorsett and Julian Edelman have been banged up and playing hurt. Sanu could step in immediately and start contributing. That doesn’t mean he’ll even do better than his career-high 838 yards in 2018 though. He’ll fit into the offense as just another piece of the puzzle.
- Emmanuel Sanders – The 49ers acquired the 32-year-old Sanders as a small surprise. This is his tenth season and his last 1,000-yard season was in 2016. Sanders hasn’t played all 16 games since 2014. But he becomes the No. 1 wideout for the 49ers who after six games is led by Marquise Goodwin’s 181 yards. The offense hasn’t had a true No. 1 since HC Kyle Shanahan showed up. Almost like the scheme doesn’t support one. Or has it been the quarterbacks? The 49ers have the least productive set of wideouts in the NFL currently so Sanders will be a plus. But Sanders is a free agent in 2020. He’s certainly no Antonio Brown or Odell Beckham as an addition. And the 49ers may have traded a third- and fourth-round pick for an over-the-hill wideout for just the final ten games if they do not re-sign him.
- Kareem Hunt – This is a week early, but Hunt finishes his suspension and can join the Browns for Week 10. He had sports hernia surgery in the summer but has been practicing with the team for the last two weeks. The Browns are already happy with Nick Chubb as the primary back and Hunt will only be a change-of-pace back and potentially a third-down back since he’s a more accomplished receiver than Chubb. Hunt only signed a one-year contract with Cleveland for $1.1 million. They already paid him for the first half of the season and know he’ll likely sign elsewhere in 2020. So he’ll get used and while it may seem that Chubb will get fewer touches, that may not be true. The passing game is already a disappointment and dropped another notch when David Njoku went on IR. Hunt has every reason to do well for that 2020 contract (somewhere) and the Browns can use the help now.
- Tyrell Williams – Williams has been out with a foot injury since Week 4 but he had limited practices the last two days and is expected to return for the matchup in Houston. He started the year with six catches for 105 yards and one touchdown but didn’t break 50 yards in the next three games. But he did score a touchdown in every game this year. And two were at the Vikings and at the Colts. His first game back goes against the No. 31 defense versus wideouts. Be nice to see if the Raiders passing game can be anything more than pitch-and-catch with Darren Waller.
- A.J. Brown/Corey Davis – Marcus Mariota has never been consistent when throwing to his wide receivers and in the process relied heavily on the aging Delanie Walker. But Ryan Tannehill has no such tendency and his first game as the starter resulted in a Titan’s season-high 312 passing yards and two scores versus the Chargers No. 11 defense versus quarterbacks. Brown (6-64) turned in three more catches than he had in any other game. Davis (6-80, TD) also had a season-best six catches. The Titans face the Buccaneers who rank No. 25 versus wideouts this week. If Tannehill can take advantage of that opportunity, Mariota won’t see the field ever again. More important – the Titans wide receivers could deliver on the immense talent that saw Davis drafted as the 1.05 in 2017 and Brown as the 2.19 of this season.
- The Top-10 and Bottom-10 Wideouts in yards-per-catch – Here’s an interesting quick look at where the wide receivers stand in yards per catch as of Week 7. Minimum of 20 receptions.
Interesting to see that Metcalf, Brown, and McLaurin are rookies. Diggs, Evans, and Cooper are there after years of high production. Most of these are split ends. Notable too is that many of these have a lower percentage of catching targets.
Most of these are slot receivers as would be expected, catching the shorter passes over the middle of the field. A surprise is both Hilton and Hopkins. The touchdowns from this crew are almost half of that from the long-ball receivers.