Small issue: Bears’ Matt Nagy not afraid to pair Taylor Gabriel with Tarik Cohen

SHARE Small issue: Bears’ Matt Nagy not afraid to pair Taylor Gabriel with Tarik Cohen

The Bears signed Taylor Gabriel to a four-year deal in March. (AP)

Someone asked Bears coach Matt Nagy about playing receiver Taylor Gabriel and running back Tarik Cohen — who stand 5-8 and 5-6, respectively — at the same time.

“What would you do?” Nagy asked rhetorically Wednesday. “You want them on the field?”

He certainly does. A more difficult question might be a good nickname for the duo.

“I [couldn’t] care less about size,” Nagy said. “I just think you put the best football players out there for that personnel group, for scheme, and for the play that we have.”

Gabriel, who was signed to a four-year deal for $26  million ($14  million guaranteed) in March, won’t be chased off the field just because the Bears want to use Cohen at running back or receiver.

Both men can fly. Cohen ran a 4.42-second 40-yard dash at last year’s NFL Scouting Combine. Gabriel, who’s built like a slot receiver but often played outside with the Falcons, ran a wind-aided 4.27 at his own pro day four years ago.

That, Gabriel said, fits Nagy’s offense.

“It’s a lot of catch and run,” he said. “That’s one thing I’m good at — catching and running.

“This offense is going to be very exciting. That’s one thing you saw [from Nagy in Kansas City]. And I’m pretty sure he’s going to bring it this year to Chicago.”

Nagy said Gabriel, 27, has a reputation as a “gadget” player because of his size and speed. Appropriately, then, Gabriel figures to run jet motions with the Bears. Or catch quick screens. Or maybe even a snap.


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What really impresses Nagy, though, is how Gabriel has worked to learn the subtleties of wide receiver.

“This isn’t something where he’s coming in and just trying to do his own thing at all,” Nagy said. “He’s coming in here and he’s listening to how we’re teaching and trying to get better every day.”

Gabriel has spent the offseason trying to digest the offense, from the formations to motions before the snap.

“It’s not just learning one position,” Gabriel said. “It’s knowing all positions. That’s why we come to OTAs and get work like that.”

Gabriel has learned an offense in less time than this. The Falcons  claimed him off waivers from the Browns on the eve of the 2016 season and made him an important cog in their offense, which led the NFL in scoring on the way to the NFC title. Gabriel caught 35 balls for 579 yards and six scores, and added three catches for 76 yards in a Super Bowl loss to the Patriots.

Asked if he sees similarities between the Bears’ offense and the Falcons’ dynamic offense, Gabriel pointed to “people perfecting their craft” in the offseason.

“You can feel it out there in the playmakers we do have and [that] the Bears brought in,” he said. “It’s just exciting to be out there, and it’s exciting to get to the season. The preparation that goes on throughout the day — it’s exciting to be here.”

NOTE: This August, the Bears are replacing preseason play-by-play man Sam Rosen with two Illinois natives: Adam Amin and Kyle Brandt.

After the Bears play on national television in the Hall of Fame Game, Amin, an ESPN announcer born in Addison, will call Games 2-4 on Fox-32. Brandt, a Stevenson alum who hosts “Good Morning Football” on NFL Network, will call the preseason finale while Amin is covering college football.

Both will work alongside former Bears quarterback Jim Miller, who’s returning as the preseason color analyst.

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