Ready or not, here he comes.
Since joining the club as a kick and punt return specialist after the Patriots released him on their final cuts in 2011, Brandon Tate has been a major object of scorn from Bengals fans. Some of it has been earned, be it from fielding punts deep in his own territory or a lack of overall contribution as a receiver, but Tate isn't going down in 2013 without a fight.
In two preseason games with limited action, Tate has scored two touchdowns--one receiving in the opener against the Atlanta Falcons, and one on a punt return against the Dallas Cowboys. The big special teams play this Saturday wasn't the only major contribution, nor was the touchdown reception. He has contributed five receptions for 84 yards in his three games.
For a guy that has been clinging to a special teams role and perhaps the No.5 or No.6 receiver spot, Tate has been doing everything he can to secure a spot on this roster. And, given his production in the three preseason games, it's hard to dispute the notion that he deserves his name on the final roster.
Let's take two things into consideration, shall we?
First, head coach Marvin Lewis loves to keep players around that can contribute on special teams. Whether it's defensive backs, running backs or wide receivers in a gunner type role, or a return man like Tate, a guy with versatility holds weight with this staff. Tate's ability to score touchdowns in two different capacities has to be noticed.
Secondly, Tate is the most seasoned veteran of the current receiving staff. Part of the excitement surrounding this team is that many of their budding stars are hitting their prime years. While this is true and Tate isn't one of this team's stars, the fact remains that he has the most experience of a very young Bengals receiving corps. And, the the first two years of his accrued experience was from the perennial AFC powerhouse New England Patriots.
Nothing is set in stone in the NFL, but for a bubble player on the Bengals roster while working on a one-year deal, Tate isn't making things easy on the coaches. Given his performance in the 2013 preseason, many of those who don't wish to see Tate stick around might end up being disappointed.