Just 12 full days after the Eagles acquired Golden Tate, the former Pro Bowler is going to take the field on Sunday Night Football against the hated Dallas Cowboys.
The real question becomes, how much will he play?
Here’s what Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said on Tate’s usage:
I think there's a fine line with how much we want to put him out there, because I want to be careful that I'm not doing him a disservice by putting him out there with something he's uncomfortable with. So, making sure that we have a nice, tight plan for him is important this week.
I get all that.
I get that, ideally, the Eagles would bring Tate along slowly as he learns the offense and his teammates.
But there’s simply no time to coddle him.
Tate needs to hit the ground running. The Eagles traded away a third-round pick for a guy with just eight games left on his contract. And at 4-4, they don’t have a week to waste; every game is important, especially ones in the division and against weaker opponents. Damn near all of these NFC East games are must-wins.
Sure, reports out of New Orleans (before the injury) said the Saints were waiting a week to start Dez Bryant, but the Saints have a 7-1 record and have built up a lead in the NFC. The Eagles have no such luxury.
Pederson explained that game plans are built throughout the week. So they start Wednesday in practice with a handful of plays. Then later in the week, they get into situational football, goal line, third down, red zone, backed up, etc. So everything in the game plan is either carried over from earlier in the week or added situationally.
If Tate were a 23- or 24-year-old, you could make the case that expecting too much from him too early would be a problem. But this is a 30-year-old vet who has played in several different offenses and at a Pro Bowl level in this league. Sure, offensive coordinator Mike Groh likened learning a new offense to learning a new language, but he neglected to say that Tate has learned a new language before and has all the building blocks. It’s like going from one romantic language to another. There are little differences.
And good on Tate for putting the work in. That much is clear. From the time he got traded, he’s been neck deep in the playbook, so much so that he skipped going to church with Carson Wentz on Sunday to stay home in his tablet. Earlier this week, I even saw Tate seek clarification from Wentz on something and the QB was quick to explain everything in detail. It’s not just Wentz either; guys like Nelson Agholor and Zach Ertz have also been helping Tate with the playbook.
Based on conversations with players in the locker room, it seems like Tate is going to play mostly in the slot this weekend and likely going forward. Based on Tate’s ability, a lot of what the Eagles can do with him should circle around getting the ball in his hands quickly after the snap and allowing him to make something happen.
You’ll probably remember last year when Jay Ajayi got traded to the Eagles. He had eight carries for 77 yards and a touchdown in his debut. Maybe it’s easier to learn the offense as a running back, especially if that back isn’t asked to pass protect right away. But Tate has had even longer to learn the offense than Ajayi did last season.
Furthermore, the Cowboys know the Eagles’ offense and they know Golden Tate, but they don’t know what to expect from Golden Tate in the Eagles’ offense. That can be an advantage for the Birds; one they should exploit.
So on Sunday night, forget bringing Tate along slowly. He needs to be a big part of the offense from the moment he steps on the field. I think he will be.
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