Some Bengals fans were a little surprised when they learned that the team had decided to part ways with wide receiver and punt returner Quan Cosby, the franchise's all-time leader in yards per punt return at 10 yards. However, Bengals fans can't really be too terrible upset with the team's replacement, former New England Patriot Brandon Tate. Head coach Marvin Lewis said that what attracted them to Tate was his big play ability both as a return specialist and as a wide receiver, but it seems that his biggest impact, at least right away, will be as a kick and punt returner.
Special teams coach Darrin Simmons is confident that Tate can help the team even though he didn't do much against the Bengals last year.
"I think he'll do fine with it," Simmons said. "He was back there the whole game against us last year but he didn't do much. I have complete confidence in him."
The Bengals were attracted to Tate not only by his big play potential as a wide receiver but because he's a natural return specialist. Simmons says he's a "very good home run hitter. He's a very good cutter and has great quickness and body control. There's a lot to like about him."
When Simmons was asked if Tate was the best return man he'd ever worked with, he wouldn't go that far, but he said Tate was too good to pass up.
"This guy has a better, natural feel of understanding where the kicker is kicking it," Simmons said. "He's developed a natural feel of running the ball. He's been productive. This kid has a burning desire deep down to get better at it."
While Tate will be returning kicks and hopefully a lot of punts from Cleveland, the Browns have a talented return specialist as well in Joshua Cribbs. Cribbs has never returned a kick or punt for a touchdown against the Bengals but he does have 10 return touchdowns in his career. Simmons said that it will be up to Bengals kicker Mike Nugent to keep Cribbs from being effective.
"We still have to punt it and kick it off to Josh Cribbs. It's up to Mike Nugent to kick the ball into the first row of the Dawg Pound," Simmons said. "The less he touches the ball, the less of a threat he is."
The new kickoff rules may keep Tate from running a kick back but they will also keep Cribbs at bay. Fair trade? I think so.