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Why can’t the Eagles figure out what to do with Golden Tate?

In two games since acquiring Golden Tate, the Eagles offense has gone backward.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

When the Eagles traded a 3rd round pick for Golden Tate during their bye week two weeks ago, it was assumed there was a plan in place for how they would use him.

How silly of us.

At his weekly news conference, embattled offensive coordinator Mike Groh admitted the team really hasn’t been able to figure out what to do with their new toy.


Groh also admitted that Nelson Agholor’s role with the team changed after Tate’s arrival, and that he (Groh) hasn’t done a good enough job with substitutions to make things work at wide receiver.

It’s pretty startling to hear an offensive coordinator admit he doesn’t know how to use one of the best YAC receivers in the NFL, and it doesn’t engender confidence in his abilities moving forward. In fact, his news conference was a borderline disaster, and his comments make it appear as if he has no idea what he’s doing.

But let’s also not pretend the acquisition of Tate fit this team like a glove.

The Eagles already had a slot receiver in Agholor. They also had one of the best tight ends in the NFL in Zach Ertz. Alshon Jeffrey is a beast over the middle on slant patterns and the team was one of the best in the league at running 2-TE sets with Ertz and Dallas Goeddert. Obviously, putting Tate on the field means more 11 personnel and less Goeddert, essentially wasting their early 2nd-round pick from this year.

What the Eagles needed was a field-stretching wide receiver or, better yet, a play-making running back or defensive player or two. Instead, Howie Roseman traded a 3rd-round pick for Tate, a move I questioned on the BGN Radio episode that took place shortly after the deal was consummated (fast forward to the 8:00 minute mark).

I thought at the time (and, really, even before the trade) that a 3rd-round pick was too much to give up for a player who appeared to be a redundant piece and didn’t offer much more than what they already had. And if you look at recent Eagles 3rd rounders and 4th rounders, you will note a clear difference in the quality of players the Birds received in those rounds.

Since 2011, here are the Eagles’ 4th round picks: Casey Matthews, Alex Henery, Brandon Boykin, Matt Barkley, Jaylen Watkins, Mack Hollins, Donnel Pumphrey, Josh Sweat and Avonte Maddox.

Here are their 3rd round picks: Curtis Marsh, Nick Foles, Bennie Logan, Josh Huff, Jordan Hicks, Isaac Seumalo, Rasul Douglas.

Had the Eagles given up a 4th rounder instead of a 3rd rounder, the Tate trade would look a bit better right now, but not a lot.

Everyone assumed that the Eagles had a plan in place to use Tate, given that he specializes in making plays in the same part of the field that Agholor, Ertz and Jeffrey generally do. But based on Groh’s comments, we were dead wrong.

That begs the question — is there a disconnect between the front office and the coaching staff?

Did the front office assume the offensive coaches would be able to make it work, or was the coaching staff in lockstep and make the same assumption? Is the offense brain trust missing the creativity of former offensive coordinator Frank Reich? Or was this simply a bad fit? If it was a bad fit, shouldn’t someone have seen it before now?

What’s clear is that Doug Pederson and Groh have not been able to figure Tate out through the admittedly small sample size of two games. But those two games were huge, games that essentially ended the Eagles season (no, they are not mathematically eliminated, but you get the point).

Last Sunday against the Saints, Tate lead the team in targets with eight. He caught five balls for 48 yards, for a measly 6.0 yards per target. He also had a run that went for -8 yards. As a result, Jeffrey received just five targets on Sunday, Ertz just three and Agholor had just two. The week before against Dallas, Tate was barely able to get on the field, playing just 18 snaps getting four targets, two of which he caught for 19 yards.

Tate is taking away targets and catches from receivers who were already here and is not providing anything new to the mix. Not only that, he’s a free agent after the season, so while the Eagles will get a compensatory draft pick should he leave, it likely won’t be at the level of the 3rd rounder they surrendered for a guy who is going to play out the string. Or are they going to pay a receiver who does a lot of the same things that Agholor does, who is also under contract next season, on a multi-year deal?

Whatever they decide, the Eagles have Golden Tate for another six games. Here’s hoping they can rise to the “challenge” and found out how to use one of the best slot receivers in the NFL.

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