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Film Review: Taylor Gabriel, Bears X-factor

September 20, 2018

The Bears’ offense is still a work in progress. But on Monday night, the “plan” of how the Bears want to attack defenses could easily be seen. The offense is going to run through Allen Robinson and Jordan Howard, with everyone else settling into their respective roles.

Last week, we looked at how Allen Robinson was fitting in as the team’s new No.1 receiver. In Week 2, he proved once again why he was worth the massive contract in the offseason. Against one of the better young cornerbacks in the league in Shaquill Griffin, Robinson caught 10 passes for 83 yards.

Just like in Week 1, head coach Matt Nagy moved Robinson all over the field to create mismatches and easy throws for Mitchell Trubisky. Take a look at his receiving chart via the NFL’s Next Gen Stats and notice that his routes are coming from all over the field:

This week, let’s take a look at another player who had a big impact on offense in the Bears’ win over Seattle on Monday night. If you were to only look at the box score, it would appear that no player outside of Robinson had a big impact. No other player had more than 35 yards rushing or receiving. However, that’s slightly by design.

Nagy wants the Bears’ offense to be multiple and use as many as eight or nine players to touch the ball in a given week.

He wants to use many different personnel packages to keep defenses on their heels. Anywhere he has coached, he has found and used gadget players on offense to create mismatches. Heading into the season, many thought that Tarik Cohen or Trey Burton would be the players that Nagy would use to confuse defenses. Instead, Taylor Gabriel has become the Bears’ ultimate weapon.

The Bears had a busy offseason, adding a number of big-ticket weapons in free agency, through the draft and via trade. But the Taylor Gabriel signing was an important one for many reasons. It not only injected speed in the Bears’ offense, it also gave Nagy a new chess piece to work into his scheme. Gabriel can make big plays down the field, and he is also a weapon in the backfield with the ball in his hands.

On Monday night, Gabriel touched the ball seven times on offense. He finished the game with the third-most touches on the team behind Jordan Howard and Allen Robinson. And though the numbers aren’t eye-popping (47 total yards on those seven touches), his impact was undeniable. Let’s take a look at how the Bears got Gabriel involved in their offense against the Seahawks.

The first touch is a staple of college spread offenses. This is a simple “touch pass” to a receiver running behind the offensive line. Because the action is occuring behind the offensive line and the line of scrimmage, it’s tough for the linebackers to get a read of exactly what is happening.

But in typical Nagy fashion, he doesn’t stop there. The offensive line pulls to the left of the screen and Jordan Howard follows them to create even more misdirection.

While the play design was beautiful, Gabriel was the one who made this play. He could have easily been tackled at or behind the line of scrimmage, as a linebacker had him squared up, but Gabriel made a sharp cut inside to gain seven yards. A wonderfully executed play for the Bears on second down.

After that first play, the Bears decided to put Gabriel in the backfield on second-and-4. Instead of running the read option with Jordan Howard, the Bears run it with Gabriel and Tarik Cohen as the inside-pitch player (yes, the same way they did with Trey Burton for a touchdown ).

Gabriel is lightning-quick and his speed is tough to handle for linebackers running sideline to sideline. The Seahawks do a good job of capturing the edge here, but Gabriel is just too quick and ducks inside the defender for an easy first down.

His final touch of the game came on a jet-sweep, but the way Nagy ran it was interesting. Gabriel motioned to the right side of the formation, but right before the snap, he flew to the other side of the field and picked up an easy eight yards.

There is nothing too fancy about this play. It doesn’t take a lot to execute. And it’s almost always good enough for a modest gain. These type of small “chunk” plays are what makes the best offenses in the league tough to stop. When they can get eight yards by running a play like this, it opens up the entire playbook on second-and-short.

The Bears’ offense has a long ways to go, but we are starting to see flashes of brilliance from Nagy and his players. It’s going to take a while for all of the pieces to fit together and learn their roles, but this does have a chance to be one of the most dangerous offenses in the league in time. One of the reasons is the specialized role players in Nagy’s scheme, like Taylor Gabriel.

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