By: Ian Logue
So far through four games Brandon Tate has handled all of the kickoff return duties for the Patriots, and is averaging 33.4 yards per return including two touchdowns. He’s been electric, and has slowly become a threat that teams need to worry about because he’s certainly a guy who is a risk to reach the endzone if they’re not careful.
But the Baltimore Ravens say their not worried.
After dealing with the likes of Cleveland Brown’s Joshua Cribbs and Denver’s Eddie Royal, Ravens linebacker Prescott Burgess told the Baltimore Sun that they’re ready for Tate, and don’t plan on letting him run wild against them on Sunday.
“This is just another guy that we’ve got to play our game against and show him that we’re coming on every kickoff,” said Burgess. “We want to make him nervous to run the ball against our special teams.”
Tate is currently tied with Seattle’s Leon Washington for the league lead in kickoff returns for a touchdown with two so far this season. (PHOTO:Icon/SMI)
However, to this point Tate hasn’t shown any fear – and his success on kickoff returns isn’t exactly new to him. In college Tate is the ACC’s all time leader in kickoff returns and kickoff return yardage, returning 109 kicks for a total of 2,688 yards and that total likely would have even been even higher had he not suffered the knee injury that cost him the final eight games of his senior season.
So far this year he’s done a good job of putting New England in good field position, which has certainly made things a bit easier on Tom Brady and the offense.
“Brandon showed that ability in college, to return kicks and be a player in the open field,” New England coach Bill Belichick said during a conference call with Baltimore media this week. “He’s worked hard. He was banged up a little bit last year, but he’s had a real good offseason. He’s got good vision, good running skills. He’s aggressive. Those are the things you look for in a returner, a guy who can handle the ball and is an aggressive runner that can make plays and make space in the open field and get some yards on his own and use the blocking that he has and make a little more of it when he gets those opportunities in space. Brandon’s done a good job of that for us.”
On punt returns, New England doesn’t have an established return man there just yet – because quite honestly they haven’t had very many opportunities. Most fans may not know that the Patriots have only had four punt returns all season, which ranks them last in the NFL in that category. They’re 14 behind the league leader, which is – you guessed it – the Ravens, who have 18 returns this year.
Tate’s also looking to take on more of a role at the receiver position now that Randy Moss has been traded to the Vikings. To this point Tate has 11 catches for 135 yards but now is hopeful he can take on more of an expanded role in the offense. He’s had to listen all week to people talk about the fact that he’s not the deep threat Moss was, but his primary goal at this point is to just continue to work hard and help the team any way he can.
“I don’t really feed into all that,” Tate told the media recently. “The only thing I worry about is what I could do to make this team better.”
He’s already made them better in the return game. Hopefully if all goes well he’ll help the Patriots offense on Sunday and suprise the Ravens by giving them something they weren’t prepared for.