In his second career game, Auden Tate played one snap on the road against the Ravens last November. He caught a five-yard pass on third-and-six one minute into the game.
Why didn’t he play for the rest of that game? This statement from last year’s head coach Marvin Lewis just about answered that:
“He didn’t get the depth... he’s short of the design of the route. He’ll get there when he gets his opportunity... his involvement in the offense is what it is. This is a guy who has been on the practice squad for a reason. He’s been a free agent for all 32 to take a look at. You see what I’m saying? It is what it is. You’re not many times going to take a guy off the practice squad and win an NFL game with them.”
Much like this year, the Bengals were dealing with an A.J. Green injury at the time, but were insistent on replacing him with Cody Core instead of Tate. This game was no different, and while Tate only had that five-yard reception, it was five more yards than what Core finished with.
Late in the fourth quarter with the game on the line, Tate was originally on the field for the fourth-and-three play that was going to decide the game. Cincinnati called timeout and replaced Tate with Core. Sure enough, the ball went to Core and ended up on the ground after it hit Core in the hands.
That kind of personnel decision-making from Lewis is one of the many things Bengals fans haven’t missed despite the team’s 0-6 start under new head coach Zac Taylor. In satisfying fashion, Tate has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the shift in management.
Not only did Tate beat out Core for a roster spot in the preseason, he’s truly thriving in an offense without Green. Since he made his first career start in Week 3, Tate has racked up 261 yards and a touchdown on 19 receptions.
On Sunday, when the Ravens’ defense made it their priority to stop Tyler Boyd, he ended up with a career-high 91 yards on five catches—each looking more impressive than the last.
Auden Tate made five catches on Sunday and every single one was ridiculous pic.twitter.com/zW6wopdfnI— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) October 14, 2019
You think he made up for that “mistake” last year?
Multiple times during the broadcast, CBS Sports analyst Rich Gannon mentioned how Tate was emulating Green with his ability to make catches outside of his frame. Green may be the golden standard when it comes to the Bengals in this department, but this is Tate’s bread and butter. It’s why he can be productive despite being limited as an athlete. If you can’t consistently separate, you better be able to get the ball by any means necessary.
He’s been winning at the catch-point, and looking stylish as hell while doing it, since his early days at Florida State. Plays like these aren’t anything new.
The highlights paint a pretty picture, but not a complete one. Without Green, the Bengals’ offense is anything but consistent and hasn’t scored a touchdown before the fourth quarter since Week 3.
Tate’s increased involvement hasn’t exactly pushed the needle towards a more efficient offense, but it’s telling us a lot about the individual capabilities of the second-year player, which is exactly what we need to see from a team that’s now six games below .500. Not every receiver, including Tate, can put an entire offense on his back. And hopefully, he won’t have to do so after this week.
Next Sunday’s game against the Jaguars may very well be Green’s 2019 debut and he will knock somebody out of the starting lineup. Logic points to Alex Erickson getting the boot back to the second string, keeping Tate on the field to work with Green and Boyd. Due to injuries, this trio has not yet been deployed in this offense over the last two years, but now, it likely gives them the best chance at succeeding.
One year ago, it was nearly a miracle to see Tate get on the field. Now, while Taylor is still trying to put the pieces together in this offense, Tate has proven to be a component worth using.
Not bad for a guy off of the practice squad.