For three and a half quarters, Auden Tate had a night to forget in his preseason debut.
Tate, who relegated to playing with Matt Barkley and Jeff Driskel for much of the night, entered the fourth quarter without a catch while guys like Alex Erickson, Josh Malone and even Kermit Whitfield had made plays.
As good as Tate has been in OTAs and training camp, he needed to flash in the preseason to secure his spot on the 53-man roster.
In the span of three plays, he may have done just that.
Late in the contest, Tate made three great catches in Bears territory with his team trailing by four, though two of them didn’t count. The first was a great jump-ball grab he made over a Bears defender that was negated due to a hands to the face penalty on the offensive line.
Tate’s second grab was a great diving grab that was wiped out due to offensive pass interference. Both catches, though they didn’t count, showed how big of a catch radius Tate has that makes him a dangerous receiver in contested situations.
But the third catch is what counted, and it was a game-winning
ARE YOU KIDDING ME, AUDEN TATE?! pic.twitter.com/okNWAC0lxy— Dadio McDuck (@dadiodefacto) August 10, 2018
“We had a quick pass on. The DBs kind of sat on us and I extended the play,” Driskel told Bengals.com after the game. “I saw Auden get by the corner on the left side. I just threw it high so he could go get it. He’s a great target. I can’t give you an answer on what I saw and what I felt. It’s just you knew it was time to extend plays.”
It was that 33-yard score that ultimately won the game for Cincinnati, 30-27. It also was a big step toward locking up his spot on the final roster. After all, he’s been doing this routinely in practice, so the players weren’t surprised to see Tate finally show the world what he can do.
“We all think he’s a freak,” John Ross said. “His catch radius is ridiculous, and he can go get the ball better than anyone I know. We knew it was coming, even the defense. As soon as 19 went in, we all tilted our heads and looked.”
“We see it every day in practice,” A.J. Green said of Tate.
Hopefully, they’ll be seeing it for many more days to come. At this point, it’s hard to see Tate not being on the 53-man roster in 2018. Heck, at the rate he’s going, he might be among the top four receivers by the end of the regular season, not to mention someone who’s a mainstay in red-zone packages.
This is already shaping up to be one of the best seventh-round picks we’ve seen in the Marvin Lewis era. Though watching Tate, you wonder how he ever lasted that long before Cincinnati scooped up what’s shaping up to be a big steal in the 2018 draft.