Aside from wide receiver Allen Robinson, it's a real struggle to find any silver lining in the Bears' 2019 passing game. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky regressed, second-year wideout Anthony Miller took a while to get going, and there was almost no production (literally) from any of the team's tight ends. But veteran pass-catcher Taylor Gabriel at least offered a few promising moments in an otherwise letdown of a year.
Gabriel finished fourth on the Bears in receptions (29), yards (353) and second in touchdown catches (4). His numbers would've been much better had he stayed healthy; he appeared in only nine games.
His highlight moment from 2019 came in Week 3 against the Redskins when he caught six passes for 75 yards and three touchdowns. It was a performance that appeared to spark an otherwise dormant passing attack. That wouldn't be the case, however, as the struggles continued throughout the season sans a few productive games from Trubisky.
Gabriel's future with the Bears is on shaky ground. Chicago can save $4.5 million against the salary cap if they part ways with him this offseason, and with a long list of needs and not a lot of money to take care of them, every dollar counts. Gabriel's average production combined with the presence of youngsters like Miller, Riley Ridley and Javon Wims suggests we've seen the last of Turbo in Chicago.
If his time with the Bears is in fact over, his signing will be viewed largely as a bust. Ryan Pace added Gabriel as a free agent in 2018 (four years, $26 million) with the goal that he'd add the kind of outside speed presence Matt Nagy's offense requires. Instead, Gabriel totaled just 96 catches for 1,041 yards (10.8 yards per catch) and six scores in 25 games.
Here's to hoping Pace makes some better investments this offseason.
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The XFL is two weeks into its inaugural season, and there's one player who's standing head and shoulders above the rest as a viable NFL prospect at the game's most important position.
Houston Roughnecks quarterback P.J. Walker has taken the league by storm. His three touchdown passes in Week 1 set the table for another impressive performance in Houston's Week 2 victory over the St. Louis Battlehawks, and looked every bit the part of a dual-threat playmaker that's quickly become the modern-era prototype.
Take a look:
Walker tossed another three touchdowns while looking like the best player on the field (and in the entire XFL) for the second week in a row. Whether his game can translate to success on the NFL level is a big unknown at this point. He spent two seasons on the Colts practice squad without seeing any regular-season action.
Walker's early-season success is a great example of how developmental leagues like the XFL can serve as a feeder for the NFL at positions of need. Quarterback is no exception, especially in Chicago where Mitch Trubisky is in the most uncertain offseason of his career.
This isn't to suggest that a player like Walker is appealing enough to be the guy GM Ryan Pace adds to the roster as potential competition for Trubisky. But as a possible QB3 behind Trubisky and an established veteran added in free agency? It isn't the worst idea in the world, especially after seeing the kind of playmaking ability he has when given a chance to get on the field.
XFL players can make the jump to the NFL after the 2020 season concludes. The championship game Is scheduled for April 26.
The 2020 NFL draft will be a challenge for Chicago Bears GM Ryan Pace. He won't be armed with a first-round pick and has just two selections before the fifth round. Chicago is expected to receive a fourth-round compensatory pick after losing safety Adrian Amos in free agency last year, but that's merely an assumption at this point.
It would come as no surprise if Pace makes a move or two in the second round to acquire more draft capital. It's more likely the Bears will trade down in the 2020 draft as opposed to recent drafts that saw Pace make aggressive moves up the board for WR Anthony Miller (2018) and RB David Montgomery (2019).
In the latest mock draft from The Draft Network, Pace slides back from No. 43 to No. 48 (originally held by the Jets) and adds an additional fifth-rounder to his toolbox. And the Bears still end up with a player who fans would be happy with at their original pick in tight end Brycen Hopkins (Purdue).
The Bears' trade down was a good one, as they grab a target from earlier in the round while grabbing a fifth in return. Doesn't feel like much, but their cupboards are bare this year, and they need more weapons on offense to survive with Mitch Trubisky at QB
There aren't any trades at No. 50 overall, Chicago's second of two second-rounders. Instead, this mock draft sends the Bears LSU offensive tackle Saadiq Charles.
Saahdiq Charles is one of my favorite developmental tackles that. nobody talks about. He's not ready to step in and start in Year 1, but the Bears can keep Bobby Massie and Charles Leno installed as starters through this year and re-evaluate after Charles bulks up.
Charles will go through the rest of the draft process with some red flags after serving a six-game suspension for the Tigers in 2019. Still, with the premium placed on offensive tackles in today's NFL, landing a player at the position who has starter's upside is a big win, especially with the Bears having more flexibility to get out of Bobby Massie's contract at the end of 2020. While offensive tackle doesn't appear like Chicago's most pressing need, it quickly could become one next year if they don't add a developmental starter early in the 2020 draft.
It's hard to argue with a draft haul that brings the Bears a tight end and an offensive tackle in the second round, as well as an additional fifth-round pick along the way.