Complete Bears Receiver Group Hopes to Open Attack
Taylor Gabriel is ready to take the field again.
After making a much greater contribution against Oakland, Anthony Miller feels like he's a part of the Bears offense again.
Against the New Orleans Saints Sunday, Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky will have his entire complement of receivers operating at as close to peak efficiency as any time since last year.
"I'm feeling good, I'm feeling like myself, I'm feeling positive," Gabriel said.
Gabriel went through a second straight full practice Wednesday after missing the Oakland game with a concussion and the Bears' only other player with an injury question beyond those on injured reserve was guard Ted Larsen, who practiced only on a limited basis.
The better health for Gabriel means he can do one particular thing to the offense.
"It's just to make big plays and just bring a spark," Gabriel said.
For too much of the season the receiving corps has been Allen Robinson and a catch here or there from assorted individuals.
Then Gabriel had three touchdown catches in a quarter against Washington before suffering his concussion. Prior to the injury, he made six catches for 75 yards after he made only three catches for 35 yards in the first two games.
When the season started, tight end Trey Burton was the big question because of a groin injury. It took a few games but Burton has nine receptions over the last three games.
"It's a very important position because in our offense, Trey for example, that's our adjuster," coach Matt Nagy said. "They (adjusters) move around and do a lot of different things."
And all along Miller was trying to become a more prominent target after he missed most of training camp and preseason with an ankle injury. Yet, now Miller appears to be back following a four-catch, 52-yard effort against Oakland. It equaled his total reception output for the first four games combined.
In Miller's case, a few more catches builds confidence.
"It's definitely been stronger the past few weeks," Miller said of his confidence. "I just feel like something's coming where I'm going to have to play a huge role and I'm going to be prepared."
Especially in terms of being able to complete passes downfield better, Miller viewed the win over Washington as a tipping point for the offense. But that came before they lost quarterback Mitchell Trubisky to a shoulder injury.
"Definitely the Redskins game I feel like we opened it up a little more, we used a few more deep routes and stuff like that and he (Trubisky) was on," Miller said. "I think it gives the quarterback, I mean, confidence that he can make those type of throws. And I guess you're going to see more of that going forward."
Miller has some advice for Trubisky or for Chase Daniel if he winds up throwing passes again -- get him the ball early.
"I just realized when I get the ball in my hands pretty early, I don't know, it's like it shifts the momentum for me," Miller said. "It feels like I'm in the game. It feels like I'm involved."
Miller said it's apparent if you look at his game in the past with the Bears and at Memphis.
"I just feel like if I get the ball early I just get in a different mode," Miller said. "I can't even explain that mode, but that's what it is."
Miller's knock last year was not knowing the offense well enough.
"He does a lot of good things with the ball in his hands," Nagy said. "He has good ball skills. You saw that against Oakland. But until he understood the details of this offense, the trust with the quarterback is not going to be there, right? So once you earn trust and you do the right things you can play in this offense.
"You're starting to see that he's on the field more, and you're seeing more of what he can do. He's a great kid. He works hard. But it takes a little bit of time. It does."
Now, it takes rebuilding the rapport with Trubisky in games, if he is ready to play.
Trubisky's backup Chase Daniel saw the pieces slowly coming into place the last two games, and anticipates better things ahead.
"I'd say we're not far off," Daniel said. "If you look at really our whole entire group of work, yeah there's some stuff we need to fix. But we've also played some pretty good defenses during that time, too."