Eagles wisely thinking about using Golden Tate as a punt returner

Eagles wisely thinking about using Golden Tate as a punt returner

While the Eagles’ offensive coaches are probably salivating at the idea of getting a chance to work with newly-acquired Golden Tate, special teams coach Dave Fipp is happy to see Tate land in Philly too. 

Sure, Tate will have a huge role on offense for the rest of the season, but that doesn’t mean he won’t have a role as a returner too. 

“We’ve gone against him, we’ve seen him on film,” Fipp said Tuesday afternoon. “He’s a really competitive punt returner. We really like his skillset back there. He has a handful of kickoff returns. So I think there’s a role there at some point, somewhere, depending on who we have available to us. But he’s certainly a competitive player.”

The Eagles on Tuesday night released DeAndre Carter, who has been their primary returner this season. That move seems to signal that Darren Sproles is set to return — or perhaps Tate is ready to step in. 

Tate hadn’t been used much as a return man in recent years in Detroit, but he was a pretty good one over the first several years of his career. Using Tate in this role makes a lot of sense. 

It can’t be a bad idea to have a dynamic player like Tate get a few extra chances to touch the ball every game, especially if he really is an eight-game rental. 

• While he’s returned just seven career kickoffs, he has returned 92 career punts since joining the league in 2010. 

• His punt return average of 10.6 yards per return is eighth in the NFL since 2010 among players who have at least 50 returns. That’s actually higher than Sproles’ average (10.11) during that span. 

• And it’s higher than the average of Carter (10.3), who had been filling in as the punt returner in Sproles’ absence until he was released Tuesday. 

• Tate didn’t return any punts in 2014 or 2016, but in 2013 and 2015, he returned a total of 71. In 2013, he returned 51 for 585 yards. 

Fipp said using Tate as a returner will probably be determined by which players they have available. Once Sproles returns, Fipp said the punt return job is definitely his. 

Since Sproles has been out, Carter has done an admirable job as a returner. It’s hard not to root for a kid like Carter, who has overcome odds to not just make an NFL roster but find a role. But Fipp had already said Carter wouldn’t be the returner when Sproles returns. And now he's off the roster, which makes it seem like Sproles is close to a return.  

Either way, it seems like Fipp doesn’t mind the idea of getting a chance to use Tate as a returner. 

“You could always use dynamic players,” Fipp said. “There’s no question about that."

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What did Eagles' defense think about that weak offensive showing?

What did Eagles' defense think about that weak offensive showing?

To a man, every Eagles defender who spoke to the media following Sunday’s 17-10 loss to the Patriots agreed it was a total team loss, that the defense didn’t play well enough to win. 

And there’s some truth to that. 

True, the Eagles managed to gain just 255 yards of total offense and failed to get on the scoreboard over the game’s final 42 minutes. Their final 10 possessions ended in either a punt, turnover, downs or with time expiring. Most observers would lay the blame for the loss right there. 

But if members of the defense were at all frustrated by the lack of production on the other side of the ball, it didn’t show in the aftermath. 

“We’ve got these guys’ backs 100 percent, man,” Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said. “We’re not pointing fingers. That’s not what this locker room is about. We win together, we lose together. Nobody is pointing fingers at anybody.” 

Several players — particularly those in the secondary — took Cox’s sentiment a step further. 

“I thought we played well and definitely battled, but there were some drives that we needed to win the game and we didn’t make the plays,” Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “We had a solid game but just didn’t make enough plays.” 

The Eagles limited the Patriots' offense to 298 yards, forced a trio of field goals — including two on short fields — and eight punts. Tom Brady completed only 55.3 percent of his passes for a paltry 4.6 yards per attempt and failed to throw a touchdown. 

Could anybody reasonably expect the defense to play any better than that against the greatest quarterback and dynasty in NFL history?

There was, of course, the trick play the Patriots used to score their one and only touchdown. Eagles defensive backs also got their hands on a number of Brady passes — five total, two or three of which looked like they could’ve gone for interceptions. 

Even one pick could’ve changed the outcome of the game. 

“The missed opportunities really probably affected the game the most,” said Eagles safety Rodney McLeod. “If we come up with one or two, it’s the difference in the game.” 

Though the Eagles struggled offensively, it was against a Patriots defense that ranks No. 1 in yards, scoring and takeaways. 

The Eagles were also without Jordan Howard and Alshon Jeffery and lost Lane Johnson to an injury early in the game. When the ball wasn’t going to Miles Sanders or Zach Ertz, Carson Wentz was handing off to Boston Scott or targeting Jordan Matthews, who was on the street a week ago. 

Given the circumstances, it’s not totally unreasonable to place a larger burden on the defense. 

“We knew it was going to be a defensive battle coming into it,” Jenkins said. “You can’t get frustrated in those situations. Our defense was playing just as well as theirs. We just have to stay patient and look for plays we can take advantage of.” 

Nobody can say the defense played poorly, but they didn’t take advantage of opportunities, either. That’s what the Eagles needed to knock off the Patriots on Sunday. 

“As a competitor, you always think you could be better,” Cox said. “As a group, as an individual, and as a team. There’s no excuses. We played a really good football team and came up short and now have to move on to next week."

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Who is ultimately responsible for Eagles' offensive collapse?

Who is ultimately responsible for Eagles' offensive collapse?

So many breakdowns. So many culprits. So many people to blame for an embarrassing offensive collapse like this.
Carson Wentz has to be better. He has to hit guys when they’re open. He has to chuck the ball away instead of taking bad sacks and fumbling. 

The receivers have to be better. That’s obvious to anybody paying attention. They have to help out their quarterback, make the routine plays and maybe a great one here and there.
The offensive line has to be better. Less than 2½ yards per carry in the second half against one of the NFL’s worst run defenses is unacceptable, even without Lane Johnson.
Mike Groh, Duce Staley, Press Taylor, Carson Walch … all the offensive assistant coaches have to be better. They all have a role in putting together the gameplan, figuring out how to attack, preparing players for what they’re going to see, making in-game adjustments.
Howie Roseman has to be better. A lot better. This is his roster, and it’s not his fault guys keep getting hurt, but it is job to replace them with the best available players, and that clearly hasn’t happened.
They’re all responsible. They all have a piece of this. 
But one person is most responsible, and that’s Doug Pederson.
He’ll always be a legend for bringing a Lombardi Trophy back to Philly, but when you have an offensive head coach and the offense has been this wildly inconsistent, it’s on him.
Why can’t the Eagles put together two halves of quality offensive football? That’s ultimately on Doug.
Why does the play-calling often seem predictable and stale? That’s ultimately on Doug. 
Why are wide receivers not improving and in some cases regressing? That’s ultimately on Doug.
Why can’t the Eagles make a play down the field? That’s on Doug, too.
Sunday was one of Doug’s worst days. 
If you’re up 10-0 early in the second quarter in your own stadium against a team with very little firepower, you have to find a way to finish that thing off. I don't care who you're playing.
I get that the Patriots have a great defense and one of the best coaches ever, but 10 straight drives without a point is inexcusable. After the Eagles took the 10-0 lead, their last 10 drives ended with seven punts, a fumble, a failed 4th down and the end of the game.
While Bill Belichick was over on the other sideline figuring out what the Eagles were doing and how to stop it, Doug Pederson kept handing the ball off to a fumble-prone practice squad running back.

This just in: You're not going to beat Bill Belichick with Boston Scott.
That the Eagles went down with their dynamic rookie running back getting just five touches in the game's final 43½ minutes is incomprehensible.
If you’re going to lose, lose with your best guy out there.
I know Sanders was banged up there for a minute, but he missed part of only one series, and he wound up playing 64 snaps — almost double his previous career high.
Yet after a terrific start — 6-for-29 on the first three drives — he got just five carries on the Eagles’ last 10 drives.
Against a defense allowing an NFL-worst 5.6 yards per carry since Week 4.
That was right out of the Andy Reid Playbook.
The one thing about Pederson since he got here is that he’s always had an answer. There have been ugly stretches before and he’s always been able to figure things out. 
He’s navigated the Eagles through a lot of adversity over the last 3½ years. Through an astounding number of injuries to critical guys, through too many off-the-field distractions, through bad losses.
Sunday was ugly, but I still believe the NFC East is still there for the taking if the Eagles beat the Cowboys on Dec. 22.
For that to happen, everybody has to be better. But more than anything, Doug has to be better.

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