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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