EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The New York Giants just added a new weapon for rookie quarterback Daniel Jones. It comes in the form of a veteran who already has proved capable of making plays at the NFL level.
Wide receiver Golden Tate was officially added to the active roster Tuesday following a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. He will join Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram and eventually Saquon Barkley (when he returns from an ankle injury) to be Jones’ personal core four.
Engram and Shepard already have shown to be Jones’ favorites. Shepard has 14 catches on 18 targets for 176 yards with a touchdown in Jones’ two starts. It’s the only time in his career he’s had at least seven catches in back-to-back games.
Engram has 10 catches on 15 targets for 167 yards with a touchdown working with Jones.
After them, there hasn’t been a consistent third (non-running back) receiving target. Bennie Fowler, third on the team with 12 catches, was waived Wednesday. So was veteran wide receiver T.J. Jones.
Enter Tate, a yards-after-catch (YAC) machine who should be a nice fit in coach Pat Shurmur’s offense with Jones at quarterback. He will immediately become the Giants’ 1B wide receiver alongside Shepard.
Tate had the most YAC (3,377) of any player over the previous five seasons entering 2019. It’s what he does best, a good thing considering Jones’ accuracy and the Giants’ route tree, which is filled with horizontal routes.
“Yeah, it’s great, especially on the slant routes,” Shepard said. “We ran over those a couple times after practice just so we could get the timing down, and having that ball out in front, like you said, it’s huge. You get a chance to get some YAC yardage off of that.”
Tate is expected to immediately enter the Giants’ starting lineup. He was their big free-agent signing this offseason, grabbing a deal worth $37.5 million over four years.
He is also expected to work inside and outside in the offense. He has been one of the league’s most productive slot receivers throughout his career. He has the 12th-most receiving yards from the slot (1,522) for a wide receiver since the start of 2016.
Shepard, meanwhile, has the third-most yards out of the slot (1,898) during that time, and 168 of his 176 yards the past two weeks have come from that spot.
The Giants consider Shepard and Tate versatile, and both will play inside and out. New York has been in three-receiver sets with a slot receiver on 68% of its offensive snaps. That might rise with Tate back in the lineup and Shepard dominating in that position.
Tate likely will be playing outside a bit more than in the past. That shouldn’t be a problem, as he was more productive per route last season on the outside (2.06 yards per route compared to 1.78).
“Whatever we are doing right now is working,” Tate said. “I just want to come in and be a spark, an addition to what we’re doing, just help everybody around me get better and just be myself.
“There is no secret that in the slot I’m pretty dangerous once I get the ball in my hands. I feel like I’m pretty dangerous on third down. Hopefully, I am utilized that way. Whatever it takes to win. These four weeks have been very long for me. I have just been thinking about football, ready to get back out here, and the time is now.”
Tate was home working out with trainer Todd Durkin of Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego alongside Chargers running back Melvin Gordon (during his holdout) and quarterback Luis Perez, who has spent time with the Lions, Eagles and Rams.
Durkin had spoken with Giants strength and conditioning coach Aaron Wellman (an old friend) prior to Tate’s suspension to develop a plan. They worked five days a week, which included two days of fieldwork with Tate running his entire route tree wearing a helmet and shoulder pads.
“We had to at least once a week mimic the demands of a football game even though you’re not getting hit,” Durkin said.
They ran two-minute drills. Deep routes. Short routes. Tate’s four-week workout plan included lifting, plyometrics, speed work, metabolic conditioning, flexibility, Pilates and massage work.
It was serious. Tate was motivated.
“He worked as hard as I’ve seen him work,” said Durkin. “I think because he probably felt he let his team down and wanted to come back with a vengeance.”
The goal was for Tate to be ready to make an immediate impact, beginning Sunday against a tough Minnesota Vikings defense.
“I have been staying on top of it,” said Tate, who thought it would take only a practice or two to get back into his groove.
That should be beneficial to Jones and the offense.