Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green (18) congratulates quarterback Andy Dalton (14) after Dalton threw a 43 yard touchdown pass to Mohamed Sanu in the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the New York Jets, Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014, in Cincinnati.
CINCINNATI — The Bengals are going to start the season without wide receiver Marvin Jones. He’ll be out for an indefinite time with a fractured left foot. There have been reports the Bengals hope he can return in five weeks. There’s also the possibility he could start the season on injured reserve but designated as the player to return.
Whatever happens with Jones, quarterback Andy Dalton will be looking for another downfield option to throw to when defenses decide they don’t want to let A.J. Green catch everything.
Mohamed Sanu’s career stats suggest he’s more of a "possession" receiver type. That could be as much of a product of what the Bengals have asked him to do as anything else. If the Bengals want him to be a threat downfield, Saturday night Sanu showed he can be that guy, too.
Sanu had two catches for 56 yards, including a 43-yard touchdown, from quarterback Andy Dalton in the Bengals’ 25-17 loss to the New York Jets Saturday night at Paul Brown Stadium. Sanu’s touchdown came on the Bengals’ first drive of the game and helped them build a 17-3 lead with their starters in the game. Dalton was 8-for-8 passing for 144 yards and the one touchdown in his three drives before taking a seat for the night.
"Their safety was rolled way over the top, and I was able to get by the corner and get a step on him," said Sanu. "Andy just dropped it on a dime. All I had to do was stick my hands out and not drop it."
Sanu cost the Bengals five yards with a false start penalty immediately preceding his touchdown catch. He said the play that had been called was scratched. The Bengals called a play-action deep pass this time.
"I did jump a little early. I got excited," said Sanu. "I’m not complaining at all."
Sanu caught 47 passes last season but they totaled just 455 yards, an average of 9.7 yards-per-catch. Most of his receptions have been on underneath routes. That’s what the Bengals have asked of him.
"A.J. is obviously going to get a lot of attention and that’s going to make other guys get involved," said Dalton. "I think you can see what (Sanu)’s able to do. He wasn’t just a little possession receiver tonight. He was downfield and made a big play on the touchdown. He’s capable of doing a lot of different things."
After Green and Sanu, the wide receiver roster spots are wide open. Dane Sanzenbacher, Ryan Whalen and Brandon Tate all have previous experience but none of them are of the same build or have produced at the level as Jones did last season. Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson said the Bengals don’t need a duplicate replacement for Jones.
"I think we just have to do what we do, and not so much one guy," said Jackson. "I think collectively, as a group, and you saw Mo Sanu make huge plays tonight. He can. Everybody says who it was against but I don’t care. I think our system and the way we play will give us a chance to have success week-in and week-out if we keep working hard, keep studying and keep working at the little things."
Jones caught 51 passes for 712 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, then added eight receptions for a franchise-record 130 yards in the playoff loss against San Diego.
Jones started training camp on the non-football injury list after hurting an ankle while working out with Dalton in Texas. He was cleared to return to practice on Aug. 4 but fractured his foot during practice on Aug. 9.
Sanu was the one with the foot issues as a rookie in 2012. He caught 16 passes for 154 yards that season, including scoring four touchdowns. He also ran the ball five times and threw a 73-yard touchdown pass to Green out of the wildcat formation on the first play of the game at Washington. When he was lost for the season, it took away a vital part of the offense.
"I’ve talked to Marvin about it," said Sanu. "I told him he’s just got to be patient and he’s going to be back before he knows it. He’s going to be fine. He’s going to come back and be the same old Marvin Jones."