The Philadelphia Eagles never gave Khalil Tate a chance… literally.
As it turns out, 2020 is not the year you want to be labeled a project coming into the NFL.
With no rookie camps, online OTAs, and the preseason officially eliminated for the sake of keeping teams apart until the ‘bullets are live’, the chances of some young, uniquely talented youngster attempting to switch positions, change schemes, or learn the game of football from scratch a la Jordan Mailata catching the eye of a wily coordinator has gone down considerably.
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Tate, a 6-foot-2, 216-pound threat college quarterback, initially burst onto the scene as Arizona’s offensive focal point in 2017, where he amassed 3,002 yards from scrimmage for Rich Rodriguez‘s deceptively good Wildcats squad. If that duo would have stuck together for two more years, something I’m sure Arizona would have liked after recording their first winning season since 2014, it’s entirely possible Tate could have elevated his game even further into the Jalen Hurts, Johnny Manziel territory as a do-it-all offensive superstar, but unfortunately, that wasn’t meant to be. Rodriguez, an innovator of the zone-run offense, was fired for committing sexual harassment on a former assistant, and after serving as an offensive coordinator for Ole Miss in 2018, he’s been out of football altogether.
In theory, the coach Arizona landed to replace Rodriguez, Kevin Sumlin, should have been a good fit with Tate, as he watched over the offensive emergence of Manziel at Texas A&M, but for whatever reason, it didn’t click. The Wildcats went 9-15 over Tate’s final two seasons on campus and despite showing out fairly well in 2018, his 2019 season eliminated any idea of him playing quarterback at the next level.
No, if Tate was ever going to turn football into his full-time career, he was going to have to do so at a different position.
Sure, Tate is a tad bigger and (probably) faster than Ward, but the duo shared a ton of similarities on the football field during their college quarterback careers. Both had live arms, kept their eyes down the field while shuffling around in the pocket, and even shared a tendency to take off and run when their initial reads were covered. Assuming Tate’s hands aren’t suspect, a transition from throwing balls to catching them shouldn’t have been out of the cards, especially if he was willing to stick around on the practice squad after an encouraging preseason.
But with no preseason to speak of, the Eagles opted to release Tate in their initial trim down from 90 to 80 players, assumingly to allow the UDFA a chance to sign elsewhere for a more favorable opportunity.
That may happen… or it won’t.
In any other season, Khalil Tate would have been a fan favorite darkhorse player to keep tabs on during camp, hoping he beats out the odds and develops into the next Jullian Ettleman, Antwaan Randle-El, or even Greg Ward. However, with the preseason eliminated and teams looking to fill their rosters and practice squads with pro-ready prospects, players like Tate may sink through the cracks and see their NFL dreams dashed without a real opportunity to test their mettle. What a shame.