Bengals: Auden Tate makes his presence known despite stacked receiver room

Auden Tate, Cincinnati Bengals. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)
Auden Tate, Cincinnati Bengals. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images) /

Get out a black Sharpie and draw a mane on Auden Tate because he’s the dark horse of the Cincinnati Bengals receiver unit this season.

This training camp, Tate owns the discarded but distinctive honor of being the best No. 4 wide receiver on the team.

In a perfect season in which Joe Burrow is healthy and the O-line doesn’t screw up, the big three (Ja’Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd, and Tee Higgins) would never miss a snap. But if something happens (NFL gods forbid), Cincinnati can rest easy knowing they have Tate to fill in.

Tate is entering his fourth year with the Bengals and knows he’s not the face of the franchise by any stretch of the word. They’ve got Burrow, Chase, Jessie Bates, Joe Mixon, and a winding line of star players ahead of him.

But that hasn’t stopped him from putting in the work at camp and reminding everyone that the Bengals have more than just three receiving threats.

Tate was considered the offensive MVP at the Bengals’ training camp in 2020, mostly because of his phenomenal chemistry with Burrow. While not quite the same standout as last year, Tate proves he’s got some of the grippiest hands in the receiver unit and remains an important part of the Bengals offense.

Cincinnati Bengals: Auden Tate is the No. 4 WR they forgot they had

Tate also enters 2021 with a slight chip on his shoulder after being snubbed by Cincinnati last season and almost requesting a trade.

At 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, Tate’s size gives him an advantage as a big-play artist on third downs and near the goal line, but he’s not going to settle for a low-usage role.

In his last three seasons, Tate has made a name for himself as a “bully” receiver who can ski over or topple defenders to secure contested catches.

Most of his production came in 2019, when he filled in for A.J. Green and John Ross and had 40 receptions for 575 yards. 2020 saw much less action out of him, and Tate was ultimately sidelined at the end of the season due to a shoulder injury.

Now, with Chase, Boyd, and Higgins likely taking up most of the targets this year, Tate won’t get the breakout year he’s been waiting for. Cincinnati will continue playing him in short-yardage scenarios because truthfully, that’s where he shines best.

Rival Trent Taylor has also recently generated some buzz and could threaten Tate for the No. 4 spot. A little healthy competition never hurt, though.

All Tate wants Cincinnati to know is that he’s sticking around to earn his keep.

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On almost any other team, Tate would be more valued as a No. 2 or No. 3 receiver. For now, he’ll have to make do with playing in the shadows of the big three and waiting for his opportunity to pounce.