Brandon Tate will likely be on the 2014 Cincinnati Bengals. Not only is the sixth-year receiver having arguably the best training camp of his career, but a foot injury suffered by Marvin Jones will almost certainly lead to the Bengals keeping six-seven receivers on the final 53-man roster.
That's great news for Tate, who's somewhere between the fourth and sixth receiver on the 'real' depth chart right now. Still, Tate is not taking this situation for granted, and he knows he still has to earn a roster spot.
"We've got a new O-coordinator and the one thing he stressed is that everything is open," Tate said Monday. "He doesn't want nobody to be comfortable."
Tate has made his mark with the Bengals mostly as a kick returner. His 24.8-yard average on kickoff returns from 2011-13 is the franchise’s career record, and his 9.9 average on punt returns is second in team history.
This season, Tate is within range of taking over the all-time team leads in total punt return and kickoff return yards. He already holds team records for most combined punt and kickoff returns (93) in a season and total punt return yards (543) in a season.
However, special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons still wants more from him this year. He's trying to get more out of Tate by creating more competition and giving guys like Giovani Bernard, Adam Jones and Dane Sanzenbacher more looks as the primary returners.
"That's what you always try to create in training camp. You try to create competition," Simmons said. "Everybody should feel heat because there's always somebody right behind you nipping at your tail."
The last time Tate was a relevant receiving option was in the first two games of 2012; Tate caught four passes for 74 yards and a 44-yard score. He slowly lost snaps to rookies Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu until Week 17, when Cincinnati was resting their top guys for much of the game against Baltimore. That game saw Tate catch three passes for 53 yards.
As of now, Sanzenbacher, Cobi Hamilton, James Wright and Tate are battling for snaps behind A.J. Green and Mohamed Sanu, and thus far, Tate is the one looking the best in practice. He continued showing that in Thursday's preseason game vs. Kansas City, in which he caught a TD from Jason Campbell with the Chiefs' starting defense still in.