Last Dance With Golden Tate

I was thinking about the Seahawks’ receivers before I even read this, but I figure I might as well acknowledge it.

The Seahawks are currently set on exactly two receivers for next season’s team:  Sidney Rice & Doug Baldwin.  As was noted all last season, Doug Baldwin is the real deal.  He was easily our best receiver (as an undrafted rookie) with 51 catches for 788 yards.  That’s with Tarvaris Jackson as quarterback!  So, you know with a guy like Flynn, he’s probably capable of double that!

And say what you will about Rice, but when he’s healthy, he’s a force.  Granted, you have to take that health into consideration, which is why I gotta figure the Seahawks will be looking to keep an extra receiver around just for emergencies.

In the middle of the pack, all pretty safely on the team, but still fighting for significant playing time, you’ve got Mike Williams, Ben Obomanu, Kris Durham, and, of course, Golden Tate.

There’s no denying that Big Mike had a down year last year.  A little probably had to do with nagging injury, a lot probably had to do with the lack of a rapport with Tarvar, and a decent-sized amount probably had to do with Big Mike acting like a little bitch when he didn’t get the ball thrown his way.  I don’t mean to single him out, because in general I think all wide receivers are little bitches when it comes to not getting enough targets, but it’s not like that’s something I can ignore when I’m evaluating his season last year.

Obomanu has continued to make this team out of training camp in defiance of his actual on-field talent level.  He’s not big, he’s not fast, he doesn’t have the greatest hands in the world, I guess he runs okay routes, but what does that matter when he’s not that big or fast enough to create separation?  I would expect him to continue to make this team even though there’s no rational reason for that to happen (unless, of course, he’s due a big bonus or all the other receivers on the roster blow him out of the water).

Durham is a draft pick, and he’s got that size Pete Carroll loves.  He missed almost all of last season with injury, so you know Pete’s going to want to see what he’s got.

That just leaves Golden Tate.

Last year, I wrote, “Golden Tate absolutely MUST make strides this year towards being a pro receiver.”  The big question on everyone’s minds is:  did he?

Technically, yes.  He increased his receptions from 21 in 2010 to 35 in 2011 (that’s after learning a new offense AND not having a proper offseason with which to do it).  He increased his yards from 227 to 382 (which, I’ll admit, aren’t exactly mind-blowing numbers in the least).

What’s encouraging is not the season as a whole, but how he finished last season.  In his last 8 games, Golden Tate racked up 286 of his 382 yards (and 24 of his 35 catches).  That coincides with the premature end of Sidney Rice’s season, which means he took advantage of a direct opportunity.  It also shows that the team was comfortable enough with him to significantly increase his playing time.  The increase in overall targets is there, which means he was developing a better chemistry with the quarterback.  These all bode really well for Mr. Tate!

What doesn’t particularly bode well for him is that he and Doug Baldwin are essentially the same player.  With Baldwin’s overall production being through the roof last season, you have to figure he’s ahead of Tate on the depth chart for that slot position.  That doesn’t mean you can’t have two slot receivers on your team, but with this offense, how many times do you expect them to go beyond a 3-WR set?  Not bloody often, considering they love to run the ball and they love the tight end position.

Not the least of Tate’s worries are the guys below him on the depth chart.  Deon Butler is still kicking around on this team (though, you HAVE to figure this is his very final opportunity, and if he doesn’t make the team out of camp, he will be cut).  I’m sure if the Seahawks don’t draft another receiver this year, they’ll at LEAST bring in one or two undrafted guys to compete.

And, let us not forget Ricardo Lockette.  Dude spent most of the season last year not playing a lick of football, but then he finally got an opportunity in the last two games of the season.  Granted, he only caught two passes in those two games, but my GOD what an impression he made with those two receptions!

On the second play of the game, against the 49ers, Tarvar to Lockette for 44 yards from the Seahawks’ 20 yard line to the 49ers’ 36.  The Seahawks would go on to score a touchdown for an early 7-0 lead.

In the fourth quarter of the Arizona game, down by a touchdown with less than 8 minutes to go, the Seahawks forced a 3-and-out and got the ball on their own 39 yard line.  The very first play of the drive saw Tarvar launch a bomb to Lockette for a 61-yard touchdown to tie it up.

Two plays, 105 yards.  What Tate has going for him, with regards to Lockette, is that Lockette is a bit taller (6’2), so in theory if he develops properly, he could be an outside flanker type of speed burner guy.

Nevertheless, there is quite a bit of talent on this team at receiver.  It’s time for Golden Tate to step his game up.  I’m talking over 50 receptions and over 700 yards.  It’s time.  Because I can’t imagine this coaching staff is going to wait around forever.

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