From a purely statistical analysis, the Bengals punt and kick return capability under Tate can be read as decent, boarding on noteworthy. Unfortunately, these same numbers can be as unflattering as they are complimentary. For example, according to ESPN.com, Tate fielded 42 kick-offs last season, 3rd most in the NFL, something that should be considered when you look at his total 998 returning yards, which is the 5th highest total of any one player. The other side of that coin is that his average spot for his efforts is the 23.8 yard line, which is ranks him at 17th among returners. More concerning, his longest return despite the heavy number of touches was 45 yards, a stat that earns Tate the dubious honor of a three-way tie for 35th overall.
The punt return aspect of his game was even more polarizing. Tate attempted more punt returns than any other player in the NFL with 51, which directly led to the second most overall punt return yards, 543; only the Vikings pro-bowl running back, Patrick Peterson, had more overall yards from a special teams effort. However, Tate only breaks down to 10.6 yards per punt return, which puts him 12th in the NFL. Further, despite being one of only sixteen players who returned a punt for a touchdown last season, Tate’s longest punt return was 56 yards, which keeps him 16th in the NFL. Most critical of all, of Tate’s 51 attempts only 17 were called fair catches, which is the lowest attempt-to-fair-catch ratio for any returner in the NFL. For those who watched the majority of the Bengals games last season, many will remember that at least once per game, Tate would misread a punt, choose not to field it, allowing it to bounce unfavorably deeper into Bengals territory. To many, this was the most frustrating aspect of the Bengals Special Teams unit last season.