Yes, Bengals fans, prepare yourselves for a positive article on Bengals wide receiver Brandon Tate. Since his arrival shortly before the 2011 regular season, Tate has had his share of ups and downs in Cincinnati, though from this editor's perspective, some of the hate has been unwarranted. In his two seasons as a return man, Tate does have a punt return for a touchdown and has become the victim of the league-wide trend of kick returns being have less impaction on the game.
Bu I digress.
Even with some of his bright moments, Tate is still entrenched in a heated roster battle at wide receiver. The team is big on second-year men Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones, as well as rookie Cobi Hamilton, and with Dane Sanzenbacher having the game of his life last night, there are murmurs about Tate's future with the Bengals. Given his own performance on Thursday night, Tate disagrees with those murmurs.
To say that the Bengals were shorthanded at the wide receiver position is an understatement. All-World star A.J. Green was sidelined with a knee ding and Andrew Hawkins is nursing a high ankle sprain. Jones was inactive as was undrafted rookie, Tyrone Goard. Tate had an opportunity to step up and make the most of his opportunities and did.
In the only two targets his way, Tate made two great catches--one for a touchdown. The first catch was a tightrope act against the sidelines to haul in a big pass from Josh Johnson. The second pass from Johnson weaved between two defenders, which Tate caught in traffic for the score. He finished with two catches for 38 yards, with a long grab of 21 yards.
As Josh Kirkendall noted early on Friday, Tate seemed more decisive in the return game as well. He had two punt returns for 18 yards (long of 13 yards), and two kickoff returns for 51 yards (long of 26 yards). Like most of his returns with the club, not spectacular, but helpful enough to the offense.
Here is more food for thought: look at the entire wide receiver roster on the Cincinnati Bengals. Who has the most accrued experience of the very young group? You guessed it--Tate with his five years. And though that might not seem like a huge deal, it's likely that some of the younger guys look up to him in that group because he has been battle-tested.
If you're looking to shove Tate out the door, it definitely isn't happening after his performance on Thursday night. There is still a long way to go in the preseason, but Tate will be there until the end.