The addition of wide receiver Golden Tate, whom the Eagles acquired in a deadline trade last week, brings with it valid questions about his usage with four other ball catchers on the field, specifically the similarly skilled Nelson Agholor.
Tate might need some time before he understands enough of the offense to play as many snaps as he did with the Lions, but the Eagles are likely to use their three-receiver package more than they did before his arrival.
"I'm not coming here demanding anything. I just want to learn it," Tate said. "When the ball's in my hand, I want to make a play. … I don't know how I'll fit in, but I'm open-minded."
The 30-year-old receiver has made a career out of picking up yards after the catch. He has more than any other receiver over the last five years. But Tate isn't a one-trick pony. He's a precise route runner. He can win vs. man coverage. He can find nooks vs. zone. He can pull in contested catches. And, yes, he can catch the ball downfield.
But he's known best for what he does after the catch, often on short routes out of the slot. The same, of course, could be said of Agholor. They have those similar traits, but they're also different in ways. Tate is a bruiser. He picks up most of his yards by breaking tackles. Agohlor has more speed and is more agile. He gets his by avoiding tacklers.
Every receiver must be able to line up inside or out, and the Eagles want theirs to be as versatile. But the guess here is that Agholor will spend more time on the outside than he has previously the last two seasons, and more than Tate once he gets up to speed.
It will be incumbent upon coach Doug Pederson and his assistants to make it all work. They may not have a prototypical outside burner to stretch defenses, but they now have four weapons with receiver Alshon Jeffery, tight end Zach Ertz, Tate and Agholor that defenses must pay special attention to both in preparation and on game day.
The Eagles offense is its own animal, but there are enough similar concepts to the Lions' system to find plays that cater to Tate's skills. Pederson and company will likely incorporate a few of his favorite plays into their playbook, as well, but the process will not be completed overnight.
"It's something I haven't experienced," Tate said. "It's going to be tough, but I think I can get it done."
Here's a closer look at Tate and how he might look in the Eagles offense:
Yards after catch
Tate has averaged 6.6 yards after the catch since he signed with the Lions in 2014.
Tate: It's what I've been known for. It's something I take a lot of pride in. I understand I'm not the 6-2, 4.2, 4.3 burner guy. But I feel like I can turn that 5-yard pass into the same distance that guy will have down the field. And my mom always told me, 'You can't hit what you can't touch.' So I try not to get tackled.
A high school running back, Tate credits his leg strength and competitiveness in his unwillingness to go down upon first contact. It shows up time and again on his film.
Eagles offensive coordinator Mike Groh: He's extremely competitive, and he's got excellent play strength.
Tate can also return punts, if need be, but his ability to pick up post-catch yards makes him effective on a variety of short passes. Here he was picking up six yards on a first down screen pass.
The Eagles have increasingly gotten the ball into Agholor's hands before or near the line of scrimmage this season. With running back Jay Ajayi's injury, and with Wentz completing passes at a higher rate, they've often used short passes to supplement the run game.
Groh: If you're kicking the ball out on time and the defense is retreating and getting those guys to separate in space, you can.
Eagles receivers coach Gunter Brewer: It always helps to slow down the rush.
Using more of Tate on those routes could allow for Agholor to run more downfield.
Agholor: Whether I playing [outside] or I'm playing [inside], I want to be efficient. If that means I'm going to get more chances to run big post [routes] or whatever, I'm trying to make whatever plays come my way.
The Eagles have been good on third down (41.3 conversion percentage), but not as good as they were last season (44 pct.). Tate has been one of the NFL's best receivers on third down. This season, he's tied for eighth in the league in third down receptions (15 catches for 198 yards). Zach Ertz leads the Eagles with ten third down receptions. Jeffery and Agholor have nine apiece.
On this third and long play, Tate created a window over the middle and dragged a defender past the marker.
Tate has a knack for finding spaces and giving his quarterback — even at 5-foot-10, 197 pounds — a wide target.
Brewer: I think different people have a skill set of just feeling those zones or being able to get off of man coverage and find that open area. … He knows defense.
According to Groh, Tate is a quarterback-friendly receiver because of his body language, particularly at the top of his routes.
Eagles quarterbacks coach Press Taylor: It's just kind of syncing his hips, being able to shed a defender the right time. Understanding when to crossover a defender, maybe when not to. When to get in and out of a break. There's a lot of times we have depths on certain routes. It may be one revolution short, one revolution extra based on how the coverage is dictated. And then with stuff like that you need to be able to trust what you see with your receiver.
Quarterback’s best friend
Tate said that it took time to develop chemistry with Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, but his best season statistically (99 catches for 1,331 yards) came in their first year together.
Carson Wentz and Tate will likely need game reps to get in sync, but it might not take long.
Taylor: He's obviously got evidence on tape of being a stronger receiver, handling contact, contested catches. So Carson has obviously seen that. Carson knows what type of player he is. So I think they're going to go into it with a level of trust there and that will continue to evolve.
Wentz has been sacked once every 10.7 pass attempt. Last season, it was once every 15.7 attempt. Tate was often Stafford's safety net, whether he was under pressure vs. a four-man rush or when facing a blitz, as he did here.
NFL analyst Dan Orlovsky said that four of seven sacks Stafford endured Sunday could have been avoided if Tate were still with the Lions.
Tate: We got into Year 3 and 4, and it was kind of like, "Hey, look, you need something to happen, just find me."
Groh: Just the way he sets up defenders I think is easy for quarterbacks once they've had an opportunity to work with a guy to see how he sets them up and the subtleties that he makes in his movements.
Tate may have lined up primarily in the slot – 70 percent of routes run – but the Lions also moved him all over the formation. On this play, for instance, he motioned into the backfield, released into the flat, and benefited from a rub route vs. man coverage.
They also utilized his running ability with jet sweeps and end arounds.
Tate's lack of size and top-end speed meant that he would likely end up in the slot after the Seahawks selected him in the second round of the 2010 draft, but he did line up mostly outside in Seattle.
Tate: When I started off in the league I was primarily a 'Z' receiver. … When I moved to Detroit later in my career I kind of became more of a slot guy. I feel like I can run every route on the route tree well enough to be out there to have the confidence of the quarterback and the coach.
He can win outside, but when he's caught passes downfield this season, it's been mostly out of the slot, and on double moves.
Brewer: Just because people sometimes get labeled or mislabeled maybe, receivers are receivers. You put them out there, they'll catch the ball, whether inside or outside. Maybe you saw only one skill set because that's what they were asked to do.
Tate had his best game this season against the Cowboys in September. He caught eight of eight targets for 132 yards and two touchdowns. He had three catches over 35 yards, two for touchdowns, and each came out of the slot.
Could Tate have any advantage having played Sunday night's opponent just six weeks ago?
Tate: I've seen those guys and they're going to run the same defense, I assume, they ran when I played them with a whole other team. And I'm on another team with a completely different playbook and we don't really have any tendencies with me yet.
Groh: I don't think we can sit here and say we're going to run the exact same plays that worked for [him] the last time. We're obviously evaluating the Detroit game anyway because we're playing Dallas.
Whatever happens Sunday, Tate is likely to be a focal point for both the Eagles and Cowboys, even if he's just in his first game in midnight green.