New Eagles WR Golden Tate can deliver knockout blow to Cowboys

PHILADELPHIA -- The Dallas Cowboys have Golden Tate's mother to blame for the punishment he put on their defense in Week 4.

"My mom always told me, 'You can't hit what you can't catch.' So I try not to get tackled, and I think any time I touch the ball, there's an opportunity to make a big play and bring a spark to our offense," he said, adding that he first received the advice when he was 9 or 10 years old. "She didn't like for her baby to get hit, and if I stayed down on the ground too long, she would be ready to run on the field and embarrass me, so I just have to score touchdowns, I guess."

He scored a pair of them against Dallas in late September as part of a eight-catch, 132-yard performance that helped keep the Detroit Lions close in what proved to be a 26-24 Dallas win. Tate heeded his mom's advice and ran past and through would-be tacklers, including on a short pass on the right side in the first half that he turned into a highlight-reel 45-yard touchdown scamper.

In four games against the Cowboys, he has caught 18 balls on 19 targets for 236 yards. His 94.7 catch percentage versus Dallas is a personal high against any one opponent.

More performances like that against the rival Cowboys will earn Tate instant popularity in his new city. He'll get a crack at it immediately with Philly set to host Dallas on Sunday, a game that could help bury the 3-5 Cowboys. And Tate will get to play the Cowboys a third time this season when the Eagles visit Dallas on Dec. 9.

"I've read my social media. Our fans have expressed a passionate dislike of the Cowboys," he said with a smile. "It's going to be a great game. I'm happy my first game is going to be at home against such an intense opponent. I can't wait to get to ... is it Financial?" (Reporters helped him with the full name of his new stadium, Lincoln Financial Field) "... for my first game and play a division opponent."

It's going to take some time for Tate to get acclimated to his new surroundings. Dealt from Detroit to Philly before the Oct. 30 trade deadline for a third-round pick, he spent the Eagles' bye week immersing himself in the team's playbook, trying to get up to speed in short order. He even had to decline an invitation from quarterback Carson Wentz to attend church together on Sunday, though his wife was able to make it. Tate equated it to cramming for a big test.

"It's like learning a new language," Eagles offensive coordinator Mike Groh said. "He's got background in learning some new systems, so he's a smart guy. He can relate it to things that he was doing in Detroit most recently, and we just try to build from there. It's not necessarily as hard during the season because you're focused on a game plan as opposed to in training camp, when you're learning the entire playbook, like everything is going in, so that you can draw from that as a resource throughout the season. So, right now, he knows he has a select number of plays that are in the game plan, and we'll just try to go from there."

When it comes to Tate, there really isn't a need for anything elaborate; it's mostly about getting the ball in his hands and allowing him to create. According to ESPN Stats & Information, he has the second-most yards after the catch in the NFL (3,749) since joining the league in 2010, behind only Antonio Brown. He is the most productive receiver in the screen game over that time. The Eagles can use him in that way early on and dial up some quick run-pass option (RPO) pops to get Tate involved early as he absorbs the rest of the scheme.

There has been plenty of ink spilled discussing personnel fit, as he, Nelson Agholor and Jordan Matthews are all seemingly at their best when operating from the slot, though Agholor didn't sound concerned.

"You look at it, Alshon [Jeffery] plays the 'X' but there's a lot of plays Alshon is inside also. That's what we want to do: We want to carry versatile receivers. That's the best way to do. Because it's about matchups, it's about routes and it's about putting people in different conceptual places," he said. "The days of just playing outside is kind of dead. You want to be versatile. You look at the Patriots, you look at the teams that are really good schematically, they move their guys around, and that's what we want to be."

Doug Pederson and his coaching staff will spend the next several weeks figuring out the best way to deploy Tate and the rest of the receiving corps. Meanwhile, Tate believes he'll benefit by opening his time with the Eagles against Dallas.

"I think it probably gives me an advantage because I've seen those guys and those guys are going to run the same defense, I would assume, that they ran when I played them on a whole other team. I'm on another team with a completely different playbook, so we don't really have any tendencies with me yet, I guess. I think I have an advantage," he said.

"But just knowing [Cowboys defensive backs coach] Kris Richard, having him in Seattle, he's going to have something dialed up that's pretty good, so just gotta be able to make changes and keep it going."