Taylor Gabriel’s 2016 was just the beginning


Taylor Gabriel made a name for himself in the NFL last season. After being cut by the lowly Cleveland Browns, he followed his former offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan, to Atlanta. It took a little while for him to get acclimated, but eventually Shanahan was able to find a role for the speedy receiver, and from week 7 on he became one of the most dangerous weapons in the NFL.

It all started with a 47-yard dime from Matt Ryan that hit Gabriel in the end zone for the touchdown. It was Gabriel’s first touchdown and catch of over twenty yards on the season. But it would not be long before these kind of plays became a regular occurrence. Following that week 7 performance, Gabriel was never targeted less than three times in a game, caught for 404 yards and tallied five more touchdowns to his total.

Turbo, as he became known around the league, added another element to the Falcons offense that took it to the next level. His eye-popping 4.27 speed is as impressive as it sounds, but it’s the elite quickness in his cuts that make you wonder how this guy was ever released from any team, let alone the Browns.¬†Gabriel went from nobody to superstar down the stretch of last season. Now, the question looms whether this is just the beginning of something special, or was Gabriel’s breakout season a flash in the pan.

Kyle Shanahan is no longer around, but Gabriel should see an even larger role in his second season with Atlanta. New offensive coordinator, Steve Sarkisian, is no slouch and knows just how important it is to get his most explosive weapons the ball as much as possible.

And that is exactly what Gabriel is, the most explosive weapon the Falcons have. When you think about the Falcons receivers, you think about Julio Jones, who is hands-down the best receiver in today’s game, or Mohammed Sanu, who might have the best hands in all of football. But lurking behind them his Turbo, and there might not be a more feared player in all of football with the ball in his hands.

Remember those two touchdowns he scored on bubble screens versus the Arizona Cardinals? Or the time he broke Malcolm Butler’s ankles for the entire world to see on national television. That is going to be the norm for Turbo in 2017. Last year’s second half did not happen on accident. Gabriel is not a flash in the pan, or even a product of the loaded Falcons offense. He is a multi-talented receiver that can strike fear into even the best defenders in the NFL. There is no stopping this guy in the open field, and with all eyes peeled Julio Jones and Mohammed Sanu, look for Sarkisian to get Turbo involved early and often. Last year was just the beginning of what should be a marvelous career for Taylor Gabriel.


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