Rob Gronkowski retired and a subsequent carousel at tight end ensued that has been plagued by comings and goings with injuries intermixed.
"You've just got to adjust the best you can," Patriots quarterback Tom Brady surmised on Friday afternoon -- via team transcript -- two days ahead of a clash with the Cleveland Browns. "That's just the way it's been this year. So, sometimes it's like that at other positions, this year it's been that way at receiver. It's been that way at o-line some years, running back some years. But, we're just doing the best we can to try to make it work. So, I think we're trying to do is just improve. Every week, try to get a little bit better and understand each other a little bit more. But, it's good to win in the meantime."
Thanks in large part to an outstanding defense, the Patriots are undefeated at 7-0 as Brady has led an offense that's managed despite a slew of transactions on the offensive line and the ongoing ordeal of finding and maintaining a formidable receiving corps.
Only Sunday will truly show where Sanu is at, but so far, Brady likes what the newest addition brings to the reeling receiving ranks.
"I think it's his willingness to embrace this opportunity," Brady said. "He brings a lot of juice, so it's good to have. It's good to see someone that's competitive. If you watch him play, he plays with an attitude. He's got a little chip on his shoulder, too, so I think we can relate to each other. And he can relate to a guy like Julian [Edelman], because he was often overlooked in his career, and I think he plays that way."
Along with bringing the intangible juice and membership in the proverbial chip-on-the-shoulder club, Sanu carries with him 33 catches for 313 yards and a touchdown. Much like the rest of the Falcons offense, those numbers speak to an underwhelming seven games and for Sanu include an eyebrow-raising one catch for three yards in his final game with Atlanta. Still, the receiving yards would be second on the Patriots and the receptions would be second among Pats receivers and third on the team.
Thus, while Sanu's stats served as evidence to struggles in Atlanta, they serve as reasons to believe he can immediately impact New England -- along with reports from his first days of Patriots practice.
"It's been a good week, been a good week. It's been fun to get to know him," Brady said. "I've watched him for a long time, and always [have been] impressed by his abilities, his attitude. It's just been great to have him out there, so hopefully we'll get him up to speed as fast as possible. Everyone's working hard. It's going to be a big challenge for us, good team we're playing against."
Until Sunday -- and truly a few more Sundays thereafter -- an accurate appraisal of what Sanu has brought to the Patriots won't be known. So far he's brought promise to a worrisome position group along with some life and attitude to practice, lending the suggestion that the juice might well have be worth the second-round squeeze so far.
Said Brady: "I mean, it's nice when everyone -- I think you have different relationships with different players, and there's a lot of guys that bring -- and I've had a lot of them over the years -- their attitudes are contagious. A guy makes a play, and it just gets everyone else hyped up. There's guys like that on offense, defense, and that's what a great team's all about."