Mohamed Sanu on his breakout NFL season

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For fans of the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals, the 2014 season won’t go down in history as anything different from what they’ve become accustomed to in recent memory. For the fourth year in a row, the Bengals were good enough to make the AFC playoffs; and for the fourth year in a row, the team was eliminated in the wild-card round.

But for Bengals wide receiver Mohamed Sanu, who has been present for most of Cincinnati’s recent playoff stumbles, this season was indeed one to remember. In 2014, Sanu set career highs with 56 catches, 790 yards and five touchdowns. He also threw for a touchdown, the second TD pass of his young career.

In his third pro campaign, the 25-year-old Sanu capitalized on unexpected opportunities to play the role of the Bengals’ No. 1 target when star receiver A.J. Green missed four games due to injuries — including the team’s wild-card playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts. Against the Carolina Panthers in Week 6, Sanu had 10 catches for 120 yards and a TD in Green’s absence. Two weeks later, against the Baltimore Ravens, Sanu racked up 125 yards on five receptions.

Last week, Sanu was announced as one of five nominees for the VIZIO Top Value Performer Award (vote here), given to the NFL player whose on-field performance most exceeds the value of their base salary. As a third-round draft pick out of Rutgers University in 2012, Sanu makes $590,000 annually under his current contract. By comparison, A.J. Green made $6.2 million this season. The NFL’s two highest-paid receivers, Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions and Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals, each made just over $16 million.

Sanu was recently interviewed by CBS Sports radio host Doug Gottlieb about what the Bengals need to do to get over the hump, talented but embattled Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton, and his own QB skills:

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