RENTON, Wash. - It’s about time.
After all, everyone from the coach to the team to Golden Tate himself has waited more than two years for the kind of breakthrough the receiver has made this month.
And it truly is about time for some receivers, many of whom need a little bit longer to ripen in the NFL. Midway through his third season, Tate is blossoming with three touchdowns in the past two games.
“It took a little longer than I expected,” Tate said. “I didn’t think it would be my third year before I kind of figured it out. But, hey, better late than never.”
That’s certainly true. Look no further than Seattle’s first-round pick in 2009: linebacker Aaron Curry. Seattle chose Curry with the No. 4 overall pick in 2009 only to trade him to Oakland for a pair of late-round draft picks last year. He was released by the Raiders on Tuesday after appearing in just two games this season because of a knee condition.
But while Curry was considered a sure thing when he was chosen in the first round, Tate’s prospects were nowhere near so certain. Not only was Tate a second-round pick, but he played receiver, a position that is notorious for the number of high-profile busts.
That’s true at the top of the draft order with top-10 choices like Troy Williamson, Reggie Williams and Charles Rogers. It’s true in other rounds, too. In 2008, there were 10 wide receivers chosen in the draft’s second round. Just two seasons later, only four of those 10 players caught a single pass for the team that picked them.
After leaving Notre Dame a year early, Tate’s first steps in the NFL were tenuous. He was inactive the first game of his NFL career, an essential fact for any story about him.
Add the late-night maple-bar caper at Top Pot Doughnuts in Bellevue, Wash., his first year on the team, mix in a mention that offensive coaches didn’t trust his route running and you’ve got most of a story written.
How it ends has yet to be determined, but for the first time in Tate’s tenure with the Seahawks, his breakthrough is not a question, but a reality.
He has showed an ability to stretch the field, getting behind Jets cornerback Kyle Wilson and leaping up for a touchdown catch a week ago. He has shown an ability to spread it, too, turning the bubble screen into a recent staple of the playbook. He even threw for a touchdown in the most recent game.
He has caught six touchdown passes this season, double the total of his first two years combined. He has 332 yards receiving through 10 games, after totaling 609 his first two years as a pro.
“It’s been frustrating for me that we weren’t able to use him earlier,” coach Pete Carroll said. “I really think it’s on us more than anything.”
Tate has become the kind of explosive player that Seattle envisioned when it drafted him. He was the 60th choice overall, but the Seahawks thought so much of Tate that they had a first-round grade on him. In his third year, he’s starting to show why.
“We want to get the ball in his hands as much as possible because he does things with it and he’s exciting,” Carroll said. “It took longer than we hoped, but the fact that he’s going now and he’s a big part of it so we want to keep him involved.”
After two years of wondering when or whether he would find success, Tate has a new challenge: sustaining it.
“I’m still going to continue to work,” Tate said. “I’m very happy with the patience this organization has had with me in sticking with me and finally it’s coming together, and I feel like I’m becoming an effective player for this team.”
Rookie safety Winston Guy was suspended four games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Guy was drafted in the sixth round. He had appeared in two games so far. He was on the field for eight plays on defense in Week 1 at Arizona and played special-teams only in Week 8 at Detroit. Guy will not be paid while suspended.