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Brandon Tate Is A "Virtual Lock" Until Challenged In Both Return Games

Brandon Tate has been returning punts and kickoffs for the Bengals for the past two years. His punt return average (10.1) ranks first in franchise history, but that doesn't mean Tate's returns have come without headaches and screaming at the TV.

Matt Sullivan

Brandon Tate, originally a third round pick in 2009 by New England, has spent the past two years with the Bengals as a return specialist.

In his time with the Bengals, he has only thirteen catches for 211 yards and one touchdown, which all came when the Bengals were trying out different No. 2 receivers last year. His only touchdown came in the first Browns game, when he burned Eric Hagg down the right sideline and Andy Dalton lofted a perfectly thrown ball in stride to Tate, who dove into the pylon for the 44 yard touchdown.

With his ability to build up long speed, Tate is considered a deep threat receiver (17.4 yards per reception), but 37 career NFL catches doesn't speak much to his productivity.

He has only one return touchdown while with the Bengals (2011 at Seattle), but his average return numbers (10.1 yards/punt return, 24.2 yards/kickreturn) would suggest that he is, at the very least, an above average returner.

Perhaps if Tate didn't catch so many punts within the ten yard line, and take so many kickoffs out from nine yards deep in the endzone, Bengals fans would appreciate Tate a little more. But that's his own fault. He simply makes boneheaded mistakes. Including 7 fumbles in the last two years (but only two lost).

Looking forward, it appears Tate may be the Bengals return man again, as Geoff Hobson of reports:

And if you figure that Green, Mohamed Sanu, Marvin Jones, and Andrew Hawkins are locks and Brandon Tate is a virtual lock until someone else emerges in both return games, then that is quite a battle for the final spot.

It doesn't appear that the Bengals are in any hurry to replace Tate. They re-signed him in the offseason, when replacement options like Ted Ginn Jr. were available.

Physically, Tate can build up speed quickly and make great lateral movements to shake-and-bake defenders. But he does this a bit too much anyways. If he can nail down the mental aspect of returning - particularly, letting punts go past you when you are standing on the ten yard line, or staying in the endzone on kickoffs when your teammate tells you to, or protecting the football - then Tate would be a pretty good return man.

At OTAs, Andrew Hawkins, Mohamed Sanu and Tate himself have been back to return punts, while Adam Jones will join the punt group when healthy, and undrafted Onterio McCalebb's speed may help to make the roster as a kickoff man.