Taylor Gabriel’s “controversial” TD catch in Bears OTA practice this Tuesday reminded me of something I’ve yet to cover – once the offense got settled, Gabriel was money on 3rd downs. In fact, he led the Bears in 3rd downs converted (11) while only receiving the 3rd-most targets on 3rd down (20). But what makes him so efficient? Why do his 3rd down receptions often look so easy? Find out in this quick film breakdown!
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With all of that out of the way, let’s dive into the breakdown.
Turbo’s 3rd down magic comes from a few things, but I’ll start by telling you what you already know: he’s wickedly fast. As you can see here, all he needs to do is turn his CB’s hips inside for a split second to gain massive separation down the sidelines. He’s got the speed to pick up yards in chunks.
And nobody’s more aware of Gabriel’s speed than whoever’s guarding him – watch how this Miami CB gives Turbo ~8 yards of cushion and instinctively steps backwards when Gabriel cuts outside. He doesn’t want to get beat deep, and thus gives away yardage underneath, creating an easy first down conversion.
Gabriel’s speed lets him take advantage of that extra cushion he gets in coverage a lot. Like a LOT. Here the CB starts 8 yards off of the line of scrimmage, so a quick cut inside picks up 12 easy yards. But not all throws arrive this early – how does Gabriel hold up when a pass reaches him late?
This question brings us to one of the more underrated parts of Gabriel’s game – not only are his hands great (1 drop in 16 games), but he’s tough as hell too. Here he gets blasted from behind mid-catch but hangs onto the ball anyways to convert a big playoff 3rd down. That’s exactly what you need from a WR2.
He actually takes more big hits than you might realize – good CBs will often start 7-10 yards off of Gabriel but break back to hit him the instant he cuts off his route. This forces Gabriel to be fearless at the catch point, and as you can see, he’s clearly up to the challenge.
Gabriel’s speed, hands, and toughness combine to create a dangerous receiver in all situations. Whether split out wide or playing from the slot, the timing he’s developed with Trubisky and his willingness to take big hits make him a 3rd down threat that defenses simply have to account for.
All of this is to say that if Gabriel thinks he caught that TD the other day, he probably did. His hands are reliable and his play on 3rd downs make that abundantly clear. Either way, that won’t be the last TD he’ll catch in 2019 – with his speed and Trubisky’s growth, I can’t wait to see what Turbo can do in Nagy’s “202” year.