PHILADELPHIA -- New Philadelphia Eagles receiver Golden Tate trotted onto the field three plays into the opening series Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys, drawing cheers from a Lincoln Financial Field crowd that gave him a boisterous welcome during pregame introductions just minutes earlier.
Carson Wentz went right to him, flicking a wide receiver screen to Tate on third-and-9 that gained 7 yards, a couple short of the sticks. No conversion there, but it appeared coach Doug Pederson was going to actively try to get the ball in Tate's hands and allow him to create after the catch -- Tate's specialty.
Instead, he was used sparingly. Tate played just 18 snaps (29 percent) and finished with two catches for 19 yards on four targets in a damaging 27-20 loss to Dallas. He also served as the punt returner and had two returns for 11 yards.
"I guess the short answer would be, yes," said Pederson, when asked if Tate could have handled more and been more involved in the offense. "We had a certain number of plays for him and wanted to get him into the game and just get him some touches. ... As we go, we'll continue to increase the things we do with him."
Tate was acquired from the Detroit Lions for a third-round pick at the Oct. 30 trade deadline. There is a brand new system to absorb in a short amount of time -- offensive coordinator Mike Groh likened it to learning a new language -- so it is understandable that Tate was not a constant on the field in his first game as an Eagle, even if there was a bye week to help with the transition.
The Eagles, though, don't have the luxury of time to ease him in. The offense has been mired in a funk for the better part of the 2018 season and is currently ranked 21st in the NFL with 22 points per game, down a full touchdown from last season's average. Their inability to crank it up against the woozy Cowboys dropped them to 4-5 on the season with a trip to New Orleans up next.
“I wasn’t sure [if I was going to have a bigger role]," said Tate, who tore the Cowboys up for eight catches, 132 yards and two touchdowns in Week 4 for Detroit. "The flow of the game never really dictated -- they had a light package. Just whenever my name was called or number was called, I was going to go in there and give it my best.”
The 30-year-old Tate isn't exactly a long-term project, either. He is in the final year of his contract and is scheduled to be a free agent this offseason. Depending on what kind of market shapes up for him, it might be hard for the cap-strapped Eagles to re-sign him. They gave up a third-round pick for eight games of Tate's services. Seven now.
In a show of creativity, Pederson did dial up a lateral from tight end Zach Ertz to Tate, but overall the usage of Tate in his debut was underwhelming. With the team running out of chances and the clock on Tate's time here already ticking, that must change, and fast.
"It's not easy getting traded in the middle of the year, trying to learn a new offense," Ertz said. "I think it's almost baby steps at the beginning and then we're going to always increase his role. You can't keep a guy like that off the field. He's a guy that has a much different skill set than a lot of us. He's a guy that can make people miss in space, get a lot of yards after the catch, and that's what we need."