RENTON — Coaches sometimes call guys like Seahawks receiver Golden Tate “stand up” players.
It’s got nothing to do with his posture at the line of scrimmage, but describes how fans react whenever he gets the ball — they almost always stand up to better see the big play they’ve come to expect from him.
A fair amount of hand-wringing accompanied the Thursday news that flashy new receiver Percy Harvin is dealing with a hip injury of undetermined severity.
But Harvin’s status only further spotlights the widely held notion that this is an important season for Tate, his fourth in the league and the last on his rookie contract.
The early consensus around training camp is that big-play Tate is ready for a breakout season, whether Harvin’s healthy or not.
“I think he’s a tremendous football player,” coach Pete Carroll said of Tate. “It did take him a while just to catch on to the whole expectations of what it takes to play here. It was never because he wasn’t talented. It was never because he wasn’t a good athlete or any of that type of stuff. It just took him a while.”
Split end, slot, punt returns? Whatever, Tate has a knack for the dramatic.
“He has played inside, he has played outside, he can do all of that stuff,” Carroll said. “There are no restrictions on what Golden can do. He can go down the field, he can go tough through
the middle, and make catches through traffic. He is a terrific guy with the ball after the catch. We can do everything with him.”
After two seasons of bright promise but modest production, Tate grew into his role last season, and seemed involved in a big play every game. If there were stats on gasps-per-pass or sizzle-per-snap, Tate would rank well up the list.
His 45 catches came on just 66 targets, and his seven touchdown catches comprised the fifth-highest score-per-catch ratio among regular receivers in the NFL.
Tate registered the season’s most memorable catch (the controversial game-winner against Green Bay), one of the best blocks of the year (de-cleating Dallas linebacker Sean Lee), and scoring on one of the best runs-after-catch against Chicago. He even threw a touchdown pass to Sidney Rice against the Jets.
With so many offensive threats requiring the ball, Tate learned he had to find means other than receptions to contribute.
“In college, most of the time I was getting the ball,” he said. “At this level you can affect the play with blocking, and I didn’t understand at the time.”
Receivers coach Kippy Brown and Carroll “kept pushing me and kept ramming it in my head, and finally I believed it, and last year I had a few big hits, a few big catches, a few big blocks. It’s continuous learning for me.”
Although only 5-foot-10, Tate is gifted at what they call “high-pointing” a ball. The translation is that he has a knack for timing his leap in a jump-ball situation with a defender. The perfect example was the catch that won the Packers game.
“When the ball is in the air, he has unbelievable hand-eye ability,” receiver Doug Baldwin said. “There’s not many people in the league who have the capability that Golden does when the ball is in the air.”
The obvious goal, when a team has a guy who scores every half-dozen times he catches a pass, is to throw him more passes. But the Seahawks attempted the fewest passes (405) in the league last season, and Rice (50 catches), Zach Miller (38) and Baldwin (29) also deserve a share of the attempts.
Into that run-oriented offense, the Hawks added the explosive Harvin.
Asked of his thoughts when the Harvin trade was announced, Tate had a quick answer: “I want to win a Super Bowl … that’s another weapon for us. (I’m) happy he’s on our team. Hopefully, he gets healthy soon to help us, but I work hard every day and who they bring in or send out has nothing to do with how I come to practice every day. I want to work my tail off to be the best receiver I can be and be reliable.”
In some obvious ways, Golden H. Tate III and William Percival Harvin III are a pair of treys, with similar speed and elusiveness.
But right now, Tate has two healthy hips and a lot of motivation and confidence to go with them.
Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 firstname.lastname@example.org