Ryan Pace and the Chicago Bears have absolutely nailed free agency. They have made it very clear that this team is going to be built around Mitchell Trubisky … as it should.
Allen Robinson was the big name signing we were all hoping for, but a player that I think will flourish in Matt Nagy and Mark Helfrich’s offense is the 5-foot-eight speedster, Taylor Gabriel.
While many have pegged Tarik Cohen to play the Tyreek Hill role in this offense, the signing of Gabriel will allow Cohen to be used in his more natural ‘joker’ back role similar to how Darren Sproles, another player whom Cohen is consistently compared to, has been used throughout his career.
I say this because Gabriel is a more natural receiver which is how Hill was used in 2017 and is actually faster than Cohen, though not quite an Olympic sprinter like Hill.
Gabriel showed flashes as a deep threat the past two years in Atlanta and provides the Bears with something they have been lacking since Johnny Knox.
An example of that can be seen here and even though this looks like a blown coverage, Gabriel uses his elite speed to simply run away from the defense:
— Andrew Link (@BearsLink82) March 13, 2018
Here is a double move that left an Eagles cornerback probably contemplating retirement after the game:
Gabriel can also make those tough contested catches as shown here:
Side Note: Let’s hope he continues to do that to the Packers! 😉
The problem is that Gabriel has been overshadowed by an all-world receiver while in Atlanta so he has never been able to receive the targets like Hill got this past year.
In one of the best stretches of his young career, Gabriel had 24 catches on 36 targets for 457 yards and six touchdowns over the course of seven games in 2016, according to Pro Football Reference.
If we extrapolate that to 16 games and it would amount to 55 catches on 82 targets for 1,045 yards and 14 touchdowns, similar to Hill’s 2017 stats of 75 catches on 105 targets for 1,183 yards and seven touchdowns in 15 games.
So while Gabriel has never had the targets over a 16-game season does not mean he has never produced like Hill, even if it was over a small stretch.
I know, I know … We can take the best stretch of almost anyone and make them seem like a pro-bowl caliber player but it is still great to see that Gabriel is capable of that sort of production if utilized correctly.
And while Kyle Shanahan (Gabriel’s offensive coordinator in 2016) is a great coach, I think Nagy will be able to maximize Gabriel’s 4.27 even more in his “spread-coast” system, like we saw in the five games he called plays in 2017.
What is clear is that Nagy is going to have a lot of tools at his disposal, unlike the 2017 Chicago Bears, but perhaps his best playmaker was also the most underrated signing of the offseason so far.