Can Ted Ginn Give the Chicago Bears What Taylor Gabriel Couldn’t?

Can Ted Ginn provide the Chicago Bears what Taylor Gabriel couldn’t during his time in the Windy City? At 35, it’s fair for fans to wonder. The latter was cut in part for cap reasons but his play often left them wanting for more. So, can the older Ginn meet (and possibly surpass) Gabriel’s production in Matt Nagy’s offense? Do the Bears even need him to?

Can Ginn Give What Gabriel Couldn’t?

Turbo Charged

Saying Gabriel failed may be too harsh. In two seasons with the Bears, he caught 96 balls for 1,041 yards and six touchdowns. He also tacked on another 81 yards on 12 carries (6.8 yards per attempt). Not bad, but it was a tale of two seasons. In 2018, Gabriel saw 93 targets and turned them into 67 catches, 688 yards, and two scores.

2019 was as bad for Gabriel individually as it was for the entire Bears organization. He only appeared in nine games (seven starts) while dealing with injuries. He still managed to be fourth on the team in catches (29) and yards (353). That’s an indictment on the receiving corp as a whole. But Gabriel’s catch rate went from a career-high 72 percent in 2018 to 60.4 percent in 2019; the third-worst rate of his career.

He crossed the 50-yard mark four times last year; including having six catches (on seven targets), 75-yards, and three touchdowns against the Washington Redskins. Chicago went 1-3 in those games in 2019 after being 4-1 the year before. So, aside from the roughly $4 million in cap savings, how will the older Ted Ginn elevate this offense when Gabriel couldn’t?

 

Here We Go A-Ginn

Unlike the undrafted Gabriel, Ginn was taken ninth overall by the Miami Dolphins in 2007. Expectations for him were (probably impossibly) high and Ginn has since spent time with four different organizations, including two separate stints with the Carolina Panthers. His tenure with the New Orleans Saints was as mixed as the rest of his career.

Alternating between healthy and injury-marred seasons, Ginn caught 53 of 70 targets for 787 yards (three yards short of his career-high) and four touchdowns in his first year on the bayou. He only appeared in five games in 2018 while dealing with injuries. 2019 saw him reel in 30 passes (56 targets) for 421 yards and a pair of scores.

Ginn’s hands, however, have been consistently inconsistent. In 13 seasons, Ginn has had a 60 percent cath rate or better three times and is at 54.2 percent for his career. One of those was his two-target, two-catch second season with the San Francisco 49ers. Even his stellar 2015, when he put up a 44/739/10 line, he only caught 45.4 percent of passes thrown his way.

 

Why’d Out

So if Ginn is older, at least as injury prone, and has worse hands, why did the Bears bring him in? Well, aside from the aforementioned cap relief, Chicago still needed a deep threat to keep defenses honest and Gabriel was still third on the team in yards per reception. Ginn averaged 14 yards per grab last season so he should still be able to fill that role.

We also cannot forget that while the Bears were in 11-personnel 63 percent of the time, that is still only the middle of the pack. The third receiver in this offense isn’t any more important than in most. And Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller will still be the top targets among the wide receivers.

The Bears also have some raw youngsters that could surprise. Riley Ridley was a fourth-round pick last year but didn’t make much of an impact as a rookie. Javon Wims has great size but hasn’t broken through in two seasons. Both could have a leg up on the incoming Ginn even if they are different types of players. Rookie fifth-rounder Darnell Mooney is a wild card and is very much in the Ginn mold.

 

Airing of the Grievances

Chicago also upgraded their tight end group with the additions of Jimmy Graham and rookie Cole Kmet. While they run different routes than Ginn will, having a reliable safety blanket underneath could result in less desperate heaves. At any rate, no one should be looking for Ginn to come in and be good for anything more than a splash play here and there.

Expectations on the outside aren’t high for Ridley, Wims, or Mooney; at least right now (Wims may be on borrowed time). Perhaps the organization feels similarly, thus the addition of Ginn. But it’s hard to call Ginn an upgrade. Even Pro Football Focus rated Gabriel higher last season, and the Ohio State product was the one who was healthy for the entire campaign.

Perhaps you could throw in Cordarrelle Patterson as a dark-horse to emerge on the outside. He certainly has shown a willingness to do whatever is asked of him. But he seems more like a candidate for the chopping block with a $5.75 million cap hit but only a $1 million dead cap hit.

Can Ginn Provide What Gabriel Couldn’t?

The honest answer is the Bears don’t need Ginn to give them anything more than Gabriel did. With the additions made to the other pass-catchers and improved play from the backs, offensive line, and quarterback, the need for more should be minimized. If it isn’t, and the Bears find themselves relying heavily on a 35-year old with sketchy hands, some folks up top better start looking for employment elsewhere.

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