Taylor Gabriel isn’t your run-of-the-mill slot receiver. In fact, according to him, he’s not a slot receiver at all:
Lil bro 3 wide Agent12 is the slot I'm on the outside
— Taylor Gabriel (@TGdadon1) February 14, 2017
Nope Sanu is our Slot 80% of my snaps where lined up outside since I've been in the NFL
— Taylor Gabriel (@TGdadon1) May 5, 2017
And just because he’s fast and small in stature doesn’t necessarily make him a one-hit wonder. At least, not in the eyes of his head coach: “[T]he things we do with getting the ball out quick, [run-pass option] stuff, but getting him the ball, you see what he can do with screens. He can catch the ball behind the line of scrimmage and take it for a touchdown really on any given play,” Matt Nagy explained, via Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times. “Now a lot of that goes with regards to blocking that goes on with wide receivers and that, but he’s not just a ‘gadget’ guy. He can be a true receiver and really do well and excel, and he’s proven that.”
Gabriel isn’t a slot receiver, but also isn’t a “gadget” receiver, and definitely is a “true receiver.” Got it. So, what else is he?
Kevin Fishbain of The Athletic has the low-down on the terminology of Nagy’s new offense. There won’t be a quiz later to test your knowledge or anything, but for the sake of this post, just know that Gabriel is expected to fit the “Zebra” role. And what does that entail?
“Usually being able to play in the slot, so that’s the third receiver who can go inside and run different, Nagy explained. “We’ll move you around, sometimes we’ll get you on the ball, off the ball, we’ll put you in motion, but that third guy normally plays in the slot.”
So … a slot guy? In any case, here’s a closer look at Nagy’s terminology for the Bears offense in 2018, via JJ Stankevitz on Twitter:
An update for Matt Nagy's terminology for the #Bears' offense:
Y (in-line) tight end
U (move) tight end
X & Z (outside) receivers
Zebra (slot/No. 3) receiver
Zebra is what Tyreek Hill was. Taylor Gabriel will play a lot of it. Can move all over the field, not just the slot.
— JJ Stankevitz (@JJStankevitz) March 27, 2018
Alright, now that it’s settled (Michael: Is it, though?), let’s go to the film and see where Gabriel can make an impact in that role:
Upon further review, it’s understandable why Nagy is pumped about working with this particular free agent receiver. We have clarification on what Gabriel is, has been, and will be moving forward – a playmaker.