For a team that hasn't had much to hang their hat on in the special teams area of punt and kick returns in their history, 2012 has been a nice change. Wide receiver Brandon Tate and cornerback Adam Jones have formed a solid tandem on returns. Jones plays the role of the electric returner running all over the field, bobbing and weaving would-be tacklers. Tate, on the other hand, is the patient and dependable guy who isn't a gambler. It's a formula that has been quietly working well for the Bengals this season.
Geoff Hobson over at Bengals.com recently noted how former Bengals return man Mike Martin wished Jones well on his banner year of 2012. While that's admirable of Martin and it's nice to remember a former Bengals player, I prefer to focus on the stats of Tate and Jones.
Jones' average of 17 yards per, which trails only the 19.5 of Buffalo's Leodis McKelvin, barely qualifies for the NFL leaders because he has only 12 returns. A returner has to average 1.25 returns per team game to qualify for the rankings. Jones is currently at 1.33 and needs at least one return in Kansas City Sunday to stay in the rankings.
Tate has 13 returns, is tenth with a 10.2 average, and is coming off a season he set the club records with 51 returns and 543 yards. He has 64 career punt returns as a Bengal, qualifying for the team’s all-time career rankings, which he leads at 10.6, ahead of second-place Quan Cosby at 10.0. Martin is third on the list at 9.9, but his 140 returns and 1,381 yards look safe as team records for a while.
It's easy to overlook Tate with the big plays that Jones has had this year. After all, an 81-yard touchdown and another 68-yard return that set up another score are monumental plays in the NFL. But, as Hobson notes, Tate set records last year and holds current club records. He's done his part, even if isn't as exciting to watch as Jones at times. You also have to look at Tate on kick returns. He's had a few solid weeks there as well of late, helping out his offense with good field position.
When you've had a four-game losing streak in a season, it's this aspect of a game that needs to be relied upon and they answered the call last week versus the New York Giants. You can label the two "Thunder and Lightning", "Fire and Ice", or whatever you'd like. The point is that Jones and Tate are helping out this team in a way that we haven't seen in a while.