Lions Offense Is Golden After Offseason Addition Of Tate
by Scott McMahon
Jun 11, 2014 4:08 PM EDT
After a quick review of the Detroit Lions’ offseason additions, fans must give the team some credit. The Lions went out and got exactly what they needed offensively in the early stages of free agency. The allure of a high-octane offense and the chance to play alongside one of the NFL’s elite wide receivers drove Golden Tate away from his Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks and right into a Lions uniform. For both Tate and the Lions, this marriage could not be any sweeter.
Tate brings to the Motor City what QB Matthew Stafford has needed his entire career – a No. 2 wide receiver who can play just about anywhere. The closest Detroit has had to a decent second receiver option in Stafford’s five years was Titus Young and Nate Burleson, neither of whom boasted much versatility or adequately complemented Calvin Johnson.
Tate, however, is a different story. His numbers may not inspire awe – his career season highs include 64 receptions, 898 yards and seven touchdowns – but the Lions nabbed a guy who can cause some serious matchup problems for opposing secondaries. Tate can line up in the slot and draw a team’s better defenders to one side of the field, exposing the other side for dump passes to a running back or tight end. Line him up opposite Johnson and Tate can run a smooth route and break away in open space. Best of all, the former Seahawk can catch. Since 2011, Tate has dropped just five passes. In 2013 alone, the Lions dropped 44 passes as a team, and five players had as many drops in one year as Tate has had in the last three.
The addition of Tate also gives Stafford a viable top option in case Johnson misses time due to injury. Johnson and Tate aren’t exactly Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey, but having Tate on the field without Johnson at least means that Kris Durham or Ryan Broyles won’t draw an opponent's best cornerback.
Add together Tate's versatility, his ability to catch the football, his No. 1 wide receiver potential and throw in a new offensive system that is designed around the passing game, and Detroit hit pay dirt by bringing him into the fold. Under Pete Carmichael’s offense in New Orleans – which new Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi has based his playbook on – Saints No. 2 wide receivers (including TE Jimmy Graham) averaged 67 catches, 939 yards and six touchdowns from 2009-2013.
It’s clear with the Lions’ first-round draft selection of tight end Eric Ebron that Lombardi wants to feature personnel similar to what he had in New Orleans. Looking at 2013 for example, the Saints had Marques Colston, Graham, Darren Sproles or Pierre Thomas and usually Kenny Stills as the primary pass catchers. If Ebron can produce to the level expected of the 10th pick of the draft, the Lions could trot out Megatron, Ebron, Reggie Bush or Joique Bell and Tate either in the slot or out wide. Under that scenario, the choice to bring in Tate is obvious – in Lombardi's eyes, the Lions were just a couple of pieces away from being able to imitate the Saints’ tremendous offense. Along with Ebron, Tate has filled that need for a versatile slot receiver who can also make a play or two when called upon.
Tate told reporters in his introductory press conference that he, “see[s] this offense opening up a lot, and [he] want[s] to play a huge role.” Whether or not that actually involves catching as many passes as he envisions is another topic, but for Stafford, Lombardi and new head coach Jim Caldwell, Tate has already played a large part in formulating what should be a high-scoring offense in 2014.