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Speedy Gabriel providing a boost on offense


Receiver Taylor Gabriel is the only No. 18 on the Bears training camp roster, but it seemed like there were three or four in Monday's practice in Bourbonnais.

The free-agent acquisition made plays all over the field, streaking down the sideline and venturing over the middle to catch short, intermediate and long passes.

"I'm everywhere in this offense," Gabriel said. "I'm doing all types of stuff. It's just fun to be in this offense. I want to bring that speed and play-making ability to this offense."

Gabriel displayed those traits over the past four seasons with the Browns (2014-15) and Falcons (2016-17) after entering the NFL as an undrafted free agent. Playing in 58 games with 13 starts, he caught 132 passes for 1,819 yards and eight touchdowns and rushed for 110 yards and 1 TD on 16 carries.

Gabriel hauled in six touchdown passes in helping the Falcons reach the Super Bowl in 2016. Last year he played in all 16 games with four starts, catching 33 passes for 378 yards and one TD and rushing for 49 yards on eight carries.

Gabriel signed with the Bears in March. The electrifying 5-8, 165-pounder hopes to be utilized by first-year coach Matt Nagy the same way that Tyreek Hill was used by the Chiefs last year when Nagy was Kansas City's offensive coordinator.

"How many ways can you use speed?" Gabriel said. "You can use it in all type of different ways. With Nagy having Tyreek Hill, the things that he did with him, it's very exciting. And to bring that to this offense, I'm excited to get to the season."

As one of several new players learning a new offense under a new coaching staff, Gabriel is experiencing some growing pains in training camp. But he's not the only one.

"There's still some things that we're all working through, the same thing with Taylor," Nagy said. "He's working through some adjustments within the play on what he does versus a certain coverage. But the biggest thing for him is he's a speedy guy and he knows how we're going to use him and some of the things we want to do.

"So far, I think he's done a great job and everything that we've asked for."

Gabriel has enjoyed learning the new system with Mitchell Trubisky and has seen the promising young quarterback take major strides.

"It's coming easier to him," Gabriel said, "He's a smart guy. Just like I said in OTAs, he's impressive. He wants to compete. He wants to get everything down. Just seeing him out there today, how comfortable he is, he's not frantic and things like that even when you get zero blitz and he's throwing to the hot read, I'm impressed and I'm excited."

While Gabriel has been productive in the NFL and has been to a Super Bowl, he feels he's often overlooked.

"I always have a chip on my shoulder," Gabriel said. "I've been in the NFL for a long time. I've made a lot of plays in this league. Feeling like I'm underrated keeps that chip on my shoulder no matter what, no matter how old I am, no matter what I'm going through. I just feel like we all need to go into this season with a chip on our shoulder."

Of 11 receivers on the Bears roster, only Joshua Bellamy (59) has played in more NFL games than Gabriel (58), and many of those were exclusively on special teams.

"Experience, that's one thing that you can't teach," Gabriel said. "Just bringing my experience, being in the playoffs, going to the Super Bowl and things like that to this offense and to this team, it's good. So just learning the little details of everything and just bringing it to this offense and bringing it to the younger players, I feel like we need that."

Nagy feels that Gabriel's experience is a valuable asset.

"He has the confidence," said the Bears coach. "He played with a really good quarterback as well with Matt Ryan (in Atlanta). He was on the big stage, nothing's too big for him. And also for him, this is a new role for him. Here's a guy that's come in and signed a new contract and now it's a little different than when you come in as an undrafted free agent, so that's a different role. Not only is he trying to figure out this offense, but he's also trying to figure out how he becomes that leader on offense as well."