First off, why did he struggle in his first year? He has the tools - he's got great hands, can break tackles, and is an exciting runner after the catch. He was the toast of training camp and preseason - wowing all the reporters at camp with his incredible acrobatic plays we'd hear about daily. He made some amazing catches in his few game opportunities but those opportunities were scarce because of his issues running routes and making mistakes.
Pete Carroll said early on in the year:
A couple weeks ago he played 20 plays or something and he had four or five mistakes out of those 20 plays so that’s more than we want. They’re little things, but they’re important… It’s just holding him back a little bit.But added:
He’s close. He’s really close and it’s just a matter of time.Tate appeared to do much better in his next outing, hauling in a number of very impressive catches against Oakland, but severely hurt his ankle in that game and was forced to miss the next three weeks. By that time, Brandon Stokley was firmly entrenched at the slot and Tate's playing time dissipated the rest of the year, and he become almost an afterthought in the receiving corps, many people questioning whether he was a bust already.
Now, I'm inclined to believe Pete when he said that Tate is close. I went back and re-watched the first part of the season where Tate got a lot of time and you can see the potential is there - he makes some impressive catches and his run-after-the-catch ability is incredible. He's very hard to bring down and his balance is amazing. But those mistakes certainly dogged him.
Does he have the ability to eliminate those mistakes? Who knows - but what I do know is that he's a very versatile and dangerous player that the Hawks need to incorporate more into their offense. As I talked about a couple days ago, when they drafted him, it was reported that he was told to be ready for anything - including wildcatting. I don't know if the Hawks will try the wildcat much and I don't necessarily think that they should. What I do think they need to do is work him into the offense creatively without having him rely solely on excellent route running.
As Rob over at Seahawks Draft Blog aptly put it:
I was surprised the Seahawks didn’t try to be more creative with Tate. I’ve always felt that his value comes when the ball is in his hands, so get him running some bubble screens, WR screens, HB screens if needs be – let him play in the slot and get him in space. End arounds. He’s not got the size and power to play running back, but you need to be creative with him. If we’re expecting that one day he’ll be this really crisp productive route runner, then it’s a wasted pick. We needed to treat Tate like KC treated McCluster.McCluster is a very interesting comparison and a very dynamic player. I personally love the idea. Kansas City used him in a variety of fashions and he was very effective in almost all of them. They used him as a running back in certain sets (keep in mind this is a team with Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones to run with as well), they used him on screen and bubble passes, he'd motion in from the wing to the backfield and run the ball. He'd motion from the backfield to the wing and run routes. Basically they got creative with him because he's dangerous with the ball in his hands - and I agree with Rob when he says that's how the Hawks need to approach the Golden Tate situation. I like the McCluster comparison a lot - but it might be even more relevant to compare Tate to Percy Harvin. Harvin did a lot of the things that McCluster did in 2010, but he did it with the Seahawks' current offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell designing and calling plays. If you go back and look at some gametape of Harvin (which I of course did), you can't help but get excited about the prospect of Tate taking that role.
One game in particular was very interesting: the week 7 game where the Vikings traveled to Green Bay to play the Packers. They did a lot with Harvin of what I just described with McCluster - motioning him from the wing into the backfield to run the ball - bubble screens, end arounds, fades, post routes - basically just straight up giving him the rock because he makes things happen. He scored a 17 yard rushing TD on a run up the gut after motioning in from the wing; he scored a TD that was later reversed to out of bounds at the 1 on a short swing/screen pass; he scored another TD on a deep post route at the back of the endzone that was later reversed because he was just out of bounds; all these things just scream Golden Tate to me.
If Tate doesn't refine his route-running skills and the Hawks refuse to use him otherwise then Staton is right - it's a wasted pick - and he'll probably go play somewhere else that will use his talents as they should be used. But it would behoove the Hawks to get the ball in his hands because there's no denying that Tate is a talented player. Whether or not he puts it together this offseason, eliminates some of those mistakes and is put in a situation to showcase those talents remains to be seen.
I took a look at his first few games and the thing that really stood out to me was the guy's balance. I know that is a sort of arbitrary skill to list - but Tate consistently wowed me with his ability to catch over his shoulder all awkwardly and then run downfield with ease. He consistently can take hits and just bounce one way or another and keep running. He's also got a really slick spin move he uses to break tackles that I think will become his signature some day. Anyhow, here's some tape study:
Week 2 @ Denver
(12:13) B.Colquitt punts 63 yards to SEA 15, Center-L.Paxton. G.Tate to DEN 22 for 63 yards (D.Bruton). DEN-R.Ayers was injured during the play.
I remember being so excited about Golden Tate early in the year. The Denver game certainly helped. Tate takes the punt at the Seahawks 15 yard line, looks up field and sees he's got to first beat the gunner, who he promptly jukes out of his shoes and starts up field - this lane closes quickly and Tate bounces off two more would-be tacklers and breaks it outside. He hustles downfield for another 55 yards or so before getting brought down. He doesn't appear to have elite breakaway speed necessarily but runs like a running back - bouncing off tackles and picking good lanes.
(3:31 3rd Q) M.Hasselbeck pass deep left to G.Tate to DEN 28 for 52 yards (B.Dawkins). (1st and 10)
Seahawks in a 3WR set, with Tate lined up left on the line. Hass under center, takes the snap, and sort of just lobs a pass to the sideline - it's more or less a fade. It actually reminds me of the fade passes they'd throw on 4th down that gave us all fits during the season. But this time it's a completion: Tate goes up and smoothly reels it in and miraculously turns up field and runs in stride without going out of bounds. The Corner on Tate looks like he either thought Tate would be out of bounds and quit or he got hurt on the play. Anyway, Tate then sprints downfield, cutting inside, spinning off a tackle, juking and stuttering for another 35 yards or so. The thing that always strikes me about Tate is that he's got a ridiculous ability to keep his feet under him despite getting hit and spinning and juking. It's very evident on this play, and is quite impressive. Tate's first NFL reception. You need to watch it, so do so here:
Don't try and tell me Tate is going go from running full speed, turning to make a difficult back-shoulder catch and then he's going to stay inbounds on this and run for another 35 yards. Ridiculous.
(3:42 4th Q) (Shotgun) M.Hasselbeck pass incomplete deep right to G.Tate. (1st and 10)
Tate lined up to the right, Hass in shotgun. Tate runs a sideline route and Hass lofts it up to him, but overthrows it by about 10 yards and out of bounds. Tate has no chance on this one.
(3:02 4th Q) B.Colquitt punts 53 yards to SEA 23, Center-L.Paxton. G.Tate pushed ob at SEA 42 for 19 yards (L.Paxton). Denver challenged the runner was down by contact ruling, and the play was Upheld. (Timeout #2 at 02:45.)
Another good example of Tate's shiftiness. Without getting into too much detail, he juked about 15 times on this play, cutting inside then back out, making his way downfield for 19 yards - but he probably ran 40 yards on the play.
Week 3 vs San Diego
(12:45 1st Q) (Shotgun) M.Hasselbeck pass short left to G.Tate to SD 40 for 5 yards (S.Phillips). (2nd and 9)
Hawks in a 2WR, 2TE, 1 RB set. Tate starts on the right, then motions left all the way out to the wing left. Hass in the shotgun, takes the snap, and swings the pass out to Tate at the line of scrimmage. Tate works his way upfield for 5 yards, breaking one tackle immediately after the catch.
(:22 1st Q) (Shotgun) M.Hasselbeck pass short right to G.Tate to SEA 25 for 11 yards (Q.Jammer). 3rd and 11
Tate lined up to the right in a 4WR set. Ball is snapped, Tate does a good job getting off the Corner who tries to jam him. Golden runs a 7 yard slant and reels in the pass from Hass in stride, runs forward for 4 yards, and picks up the first down.
(13:37 2nd Q) (Shotgun) M.Hasselbeck pass short left to G.Tate to SD 2 for 8 yards (A.Cason).
3WR set - Tate out to the left wing. Hass takes the snap, looks to throw it right, it's not there, pressure comes, he steps up into the pocket and slings a pass over to Tate on the left wing who goes up high to catch it. Falls forward to the San Diego 2 yard line.
(:34 2nd Q) (Shotgun) M.Hasselbeck pass short middle to G.Tate to SD 2 for 9 yards (E.Weddle). (1st and 10)
A lot of you will remember this play as the time when Tate tried to do a front flip into the end zone but didn't quite make it. 3WR, 2TE set, with Tate on the right wing. Deion Branch is in the slot here and actually false starts but the line judge doesn't see it. Ball is snapped, Tate runs a 7 yard slant route and Hass hits him. Tate takes another two steps or so and tries to dive into the endzone from the 4 yard line. Doesssssn't quite make it, and flips all the way vertical and lands basically on his head. Good effort anyway.
Week 4 at St. Louis
(10:53 1st Q) G.Tate right end to SL 44 for 1 yard (J.Butler, N.Diggs). (1st and 10)
Hawks lined up in a 2WR, 2 TE set - Lynch is the lone back. The ball is snapped and it looks like there's a blown coverage because the DT for the Rams just waltzes through the line and almost completely blows the play up. It's an end-around to Tate though, running from the left to right, and Hass sort of shovels it to him at the last second before getting creamed. Tate takes it and runs with it, but the play just never really develops downfield. In this case, it's not Tate's fault, he runs into 3 Rams and get's taken down for a 1 yard gain. I like that they're getting him involved, but the downfield blocking was nonexistent on this play.
(1:17 2nd Q) (Shotgun) M.Hasselbeck pass incomplete deep left to G.Tate. (2nd and 10)
This play may be part of the reason that despite a pretty promising start to the season, he was slowly fazed out of the offense. The Hawks are lined up in a 3WR set in the two-minute offense at about the Ram's 33 yard line. Hass takes the snap and throws a deep fade to Tate in the endzone - except Tate runs a 10 yard out route and is nowhere near where the ball lands. Hass immediately starts yelling at him. I kind of got the feeling that Hass was exasperated with Tate throughout the year; whenever you'd hear interviews about it Hass would compliment Tate's talent but then talk about his route running and the little things and you'd hear a twinge of annoyance - that's me anyway. I could be off base, but that's the impression I got.
(5:22 3rd Q) (Shotgun) M.Hasselbeck pass short left to G.Tate to SEA 23 for 8 yards (D.Vobora). (2nd and 10)
Tate out to the far left, runs a short 5 yard slant and Hass hits him quickly. Tate turns up field and gains another 2 or 3 yards before being brought down by a gaggle of defenders. One thing that I notice about Tate is that he doesn't go down easy, and when he does, he's always falling forward for that extra yard. A great instinct to have for a receiver.
(:39 4th Q) (Shotgun) M.Hasselbeck pass short left to G.Tate pushed ob at SEA 35 for 13 yards (J.King).
Garbage time, but good work nonetheless. Hass in the shotgun, slings it out to Tate who has just run a 7 yard curl route to the sideline. Tate reels it in, turns upfield, breaks a tackle and runs forward for another 3 or 4 yards. You get the sense that Tate isn't really easy to bring down. It's frustrating to me to watch these games because he seems to do a really good job - but obviously he had some issues that led to him getting benched. I know that it didn't help when Stokley was brought in, but he must have had enough mistakes to get in the doghouse with the coaching staff.
Week 8 at Oakland
(8:42 1st Q) (Shotgun) M.Hasselbeck pass short right to G.Tate to SEA 28 for 12 yards (T.Branch). (3rd and 16)
Hawks in a 3WR set with Carlson lined up in the slot as well. Tate to the left - ball is snapped and Tate runs a shallow drag. Hasselbeck is pressured, but steps up into the pocket and lobs it to Tate who is now past the right hashmark running to the right sideline. Tate grabs the pass, immediately sheds a tackler with a nifty spin move (his bread and butter move I'm seeing over and over) and turns downfield for 12 yards. A good play by the rookie, but not enough for the first down.
(15:00 2nd Q) (Shotgun) M.Hasselbeck pass incomplete deep left to G.Tate. (3rd and 24)
Another one of the infamous fade routes - but this time on 3rd down. It turns out to not be that bad of a call as Tate almost reels it in over/behind his defender, but goes for the one-handed catch and just barely misses it. It's hard to tell if he really needed to use only one hand- but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt because it would have been a difficult catch anyway. Too bad, it would have been a first down and possibly momentum shifter.
(:28 2nd Q) (Shotgun) M.Hasselbeck pass incomplete deep right to G.Tate (J.Ware). (2nd and 2)
3WR set, Tate out right. It's another deep sideline fade to Golden, and he actually goes up high and over the corner and makes the catch nicely but lands with one heel just barely out of bounds. Another play where you can see the potential but he just doesn't quite put it together.
The next play…
(:23) (Shotgun) M.Hasselbeck pass incomplete short right to G.Tate. (3rd and 2)
3 WR set again, Tate out right. Oakland shows blight and Hass audibles, motioning to Tate. The ball is snapped and Tate runs a 5 yard in-curl,… and Hass throws it to the sideline, seemingly anticipating a out-route, or fade possibly. They're obviously not on the same page either way and their drive is stalled. My guess is this is Golden's fault but who knows.
(8:25 3rd Q) M.Hasselbeck pass deep left to G.Tate pushed ob at OAK 43 for 24 yards (J.Ware). SEA-G.Tate was injured during the play. His return is Probable. (2nd and 13)
2 WR set this time with Mike Robinson and Lynch in the backfield in an offset I-formation. The play is a deep fade again to the left - apparently the fade is Tate's specialty, he must just work corners on the fade routes in practice or something because it seems like it's the only thing they ever throw him - and Tate again goes up high over his defender to reel in the pass. On the landing he gruesomely tweaks his ankle though and leaves the game. A really impressive catch nonetheless.
Amazingly, Tate comes back into the game in the 4th Quarter - really showing a toughness and determination to get in there. They throw him two more fades, the first time he's being marked by Asomugha and the pass sails high out of bounds, the second time Tate makes an over the shoulder catch over Asomugha but apparently steps on the sideline. Again, close, but no cigar. Story of the game for Tate.
Anyway, hopefully this gives you kind of an idea about the type of player Tate is. I sort of forgot about him a little bit during the latter part of the season after being really exciting initially. It was fun to go back and watch some of the tape though because he's clearly an exciting player to watch - albeit an inconsistent one. Overall though, I'm excited to see how Carroll and Bevell see him in the offense and if they can incorporate him into it more in 2011.