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Enemy Evaluations: ATL WR Taylor Gabriel

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The Philadelphia Eagles enter their playoff game with the Atlanta Falcons with a number of offensive weapons to stop. The main one being WR Julio Jones, which I began to detail in a two part Film Room breakdown (here), but there’s another threat that burned the Eagles for a 76 yard touchdown pass.

That threat is WR Taylor Gabriel. After two years of averaging 32 receptions, 431 yards, and 0.5 touchdowns, Gabriel’s production experienced an uptick in 2016. As part of the most explosive offense in the league, he contributed 35 receptions, 579 yards and 6 touchdowns while adding 4 carries for 51 yards and a touchdown.

Gabriel has struggled to make a meaningful impact in 2017 under new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, posting a stat line of 33-378-1 that more resembles his first two years in the league. Still, Gabriel remains a threat not only vertically but after the catch.

I studied Garbiel in the summer for Scouting Academy and observed a player with some nice traits, but ultimately lacked the nuance and technique to be counted upon as a consistent starting WR with significant snaps. The following is an evaluation from the summer, so all notes were created from 2016 tape.

Best: Vision/Burst After Catch, Deep Speed, Screens & Designed Runs

Worst: Efficiency at Breakpoint, Releases vs. Press/Off, Route Running

SCOUTING REPORT

3rd year WR that has started 9 of 42 games. Accounted for 33% of the Falcons’ offensive snaps. Played first year with OC Kyle Shanahan’s WCO and vertical passing attack. Slight frame (5’7″, 167lb) with very good athletic ability relying on quick acceleration and deep speed.

STRENGTHS

Often shows very good burst off LOS to attack off coverage and eat cushion. Flashes ability to attack outside leverage and utilize subtle  stems to clear space for out/in-breaking routes.

Good foot quickness to get over top of undisciplined defenders on double moves. Occasionally shows ability to sink in and out of breaks smoothly and snap back quickly at 45-degree angles. Often runs away from defenders with all types of athletic profiles on routes working across the field.

Reads type of coverage well on crossing routes and adjusts path accordingly. Assignment sound when in a route combo, getting to designated landmarks to help clear out space. Willing to go over the middle and flashes ability to extend above eyes with incoming contact from roaming linebackers.

Able to snatch from behind and above eyes on move and in traffic without losing speed. Good hands and concentration; tracks deep ball well over shoulder while maintaining speed and solid body control. Good awareness and body control along the sideline to tap toes while concentrating to securing catch.

Snaps field up-field with urgency after catch and gets to top speed with minimal steps required. As a ball-carrier, shows good play speed by setting up defenders with subtle changes of direction without having to gear down.

Very good YAC ability; consistently beats contain man on jet sweeps and end arounds, quick to diagnose blocking angles, and frequently anticipates where lanes will occur before hitting them in full stride. Nose for the end zone and shows aggression as a runner in the red-zone.

Solid mental processing and situational awareness, shows understanding of when to get down or OB and save time when working two-minute offense. Good competitive toughness; willing on stalk and seal blocks, takes good angles, showing an ability to engage with hands and anchor well against DBs of all sizes for his size.

WEAKNESSES

Marginal release; lacks plan of attack, wastes steps against off coverage and frequently releases around press coverage which leads to landmarks being hit late.

Adequate play strength; lacks frame and hand technique to disengage from contact throughout the route stem.

Consistently squeezed to sideline on go routes against patient defenders. Head stays static on stutter releases and fails to use nods in stem to set up breaks, limiting his ability to manipulate a patient defender’s hips.

Unable to separate from most defensive backs at breakpoint when stacked due to lack of functional strength. Adequate separation quickness; reckless at speed when entering breakpoint; often drifts up-field several yards after breakpoint on in/out-breaking routes, allowing defenders space to recover.

Marginal ability to find voids; struggles to diagnose coverage and slow to recognize voids as he enters them. Processing slows when static; struggles to work to space when having to sit in zones. Occasional bobbles on the move when having to adjust under eyes and behind. Often down on first contact and rarely falls forward against all sized defenders.

SUMMARY

Overall, a WR4 you can win with relying on manufactured touches in the screen and run game while providing a viable vertical threat. Athletic ability and vision after the catch could translate in the return game. Fits any creative system that designs touches to wide receivers in a variety of ways.

Michael is an NFL Draft enthusiast, aspiring scout, and grandson of longtime East Stroudsburg (Pa.) HS football coach John P. Kist. He hosts Locked On Eagles and writes for Inside the Pylon & Breaking Football.

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