The Wildcat, or at least the mislabeled unit that is commonly referred to as the wildcat, in New York with the Jets has stolen most of the headlines this off-season. During that very off-season however, Mohammed Sanu, a Cincinnati Bengals rookie wide receiver, claimed that he could throw the ball better than Tim Tebow, the Jets’ “Wildcat Quarterback.”
On Sunday in Washington, Sanu backed up his claim with a 73 yard touchdown pass to AJ Green.
Sanu resembled Antwaan Randle El, a former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver who specialized in throwing the deep ball in trick formations, as he slung the football deep down the field. On first glance, Sanu’s throw appeared to be an outstanding throw that would make any quarterback proud.
Once inside linebacker London Fletcher realized that the Bengals were running the wildcat, he motioned Madieu Williams into the box. Williams initially lined up 15 yards deep as the sole single high safety, but instead joined his teammates to create a nine man front. Andy Dalton was lined up to the bottom of the screen and the Redskins curiously left their best cornerback on him, DeAngelo Hall. Hall was playing in off-coverage likely trying to bait the Bengals into throwing the ball to their quarterback.
The confusion caused by the wildcat, and the lack of quality adjustments from the Redskins, meant that the Bengals’ superstar wide receiver AJ Green, was lined up in the slot alone with diminutive safety DeJon Gomes. Outside of Green’s obvious height advantage, the fact that Williams had motioned into the box meant that he was tasked with covering Green without any help at all.
Gomes, either expecting safety help or simply presuming that the Bengals were going to simply run the football, moved towards Green ahead of the snap opposed to dropping deep and playing with a cushion.Sanu fakes the give to BenJarvus Green-Ellis while Chris Pressley runs off left tackle imitating a lead-blocker. As soon as Sanu fakes the handoff every single defender in the box moves forward with their eyes in the backfield. Gomes continues to move backwards, but slowly, and his eyes never leave the backfield. His feet and shoulders are not set to turn and run as Green runs towards him.
Almost at the exact same moment as Sanu drops back, Green plants his left foot and attacks Gomes’ outside shoulder. Gomes has no hope of sticking with Green now because he is playing catchup with a receiver who already overwhelms him physically.
Gomes’ poor technique and lack of awareness to recognize the situation forces him to spin the wrong way and immediately be behind Green as he streaks down the field. Because of their adjustments to stop the run before the snap, and DeAngelo Hall’s perplexing alignment over Andy Dalton, the Redskins have nobody in position to cover for Gomes.
The Redskins’ pre snap failures bought Sanu a clear window to throw into, and while he doesn’t need to throw an expertly accurate football, he does need a significant level of arm strength to get the ball down the field. Despite showing some very questionable technique, which prevented him from stepping into the throw, Sanu was able to capitalize and make what was essentially a heave downfield.
Even though it wasn’t a touch pass through a tight window, Sanu still had to be accurate enough to hit Green in stride. Hitting Green in stride and making him wait on the ball would have been the difference between a touchdown and just a big gain on this play.
Sanu threw the ball to the perfect spot and Green complemented the pass with an excellent catch over his left shoulder.
Cian Fahey writes for Irishcentral and the Guardian. You can follow him on twitter @Cianaf