Continuing with my look at the Bears new players for 2017 I decided to stay at Wide Receiver and focus on Bears UDFA Tanner Gentry and how the Bears can use his skill set in their offense. As a UDFA he is far from a guarantee to make the team.
However, he is also someone who very well may just make the team and in my opinion, will. He is advanced for a rookie. He was a senior coming out and played in a pro style offense in college. He played with a professional quarterback essentially as Wyoming’s Josh Allen is projected to be a top 5 pick at the moment. Many thought he may have been the number one Quarterback taken in the 2017 draft. So the moment shouldn’t be too big for Gentry and he won’t be lost out there.
The timing is good to focus on this player as Gentry had himself a very good practice yesterday in camp for the Bears first training camp practice of the year. Windy City Gridiron beat Reporter Robert Zeglinski tweeted this about Gentry.
WR Tanner Gentry easily one of Bears’ first practice standouts. Made tough catches and showcased fluidity. UDFA with real shot to make team.
Those types of plays are common place in Gentry’s career at Wyoming and should be at the pro level too. The number one thing Gentry offers a team is the ability to snatch the ball out of the air with traffic around him deep downfield. Receivers who are able to do those types of things are highly coveted in the NFL. Whether he pans out as an NFL receiver certainly remains to be seen, but he does have the skill set you look for in what I’m going to call a flex X. A hybrid receiver that has typical split end size (6’2″ 210), strength (19 Reps on the Bench Press) and who has the speed (4.58) to run flanker routes and get down the field in a hurry so the Quarterback doesn’t have to wait too long in the pocket. Gentry also has the explosion (10’3″ Broad Jump) and the leaping ability (38″ Vertical) teams look for in their split ends to be able to high-point passes over defensive backs.
If you watch Gentry’s highlight videos on youtube.com one might think to themselves, how did scouts miss this guy? His penchant for the big play is evident and his physical style of play and competitiveness fits right into the NFL perfectly. Another thing that you immediately see is his athleticism. Being able to leap and contort his body in midair to adjust to errant passes. So a quarterback doesn’t necessarily need to be deadly accurate when throwing to Gentry. The video I’ll be using to highlight what Gentry brings to the table and the types of routes the Bears can use to best utilize Gentry’s abilities is a youtube highlight video. It’s appropriately titled Always open
and in the video you’ll see why it’s titled as such. I could not find any draftreakdown.com video of him (which shows you how under the radar he was) which is why I’ll be using the youtube.com video.
In the very first game highlight at about the :25 second mark where Gentry catches his first career touchdown pass at Wyoming, he runs a corner fade and makes a very athletic leaping catch. There is no view of this route from the beginning of the play so the formation and how his route was run isn’t clear, but what is clear is this is a route that the Bears can utilize in the red zone. We should see a lot of corner fade routes to Gentry over his Bears career.
The next two highlights beginning at about the :48 second mark you see simple go routes. The first he was wide open on a clear blown coverage, but the second one is the one that shows you his game speed. At first, you look at his 40 time and you’re probably not that impressed with his 4.58 time, but when you see him in game situations he loses nothing of that speed with the pads on. A lot of guys will time fast but run significantly slower with pads on and a defender draped on them. This highlights Gentry’s strength. He’s a very strong player. Did two more reps on the bench press at his pro day than Julio Jones did at the combine who is a physical specimen.
On the fly route up the seam at the :57 mark you see his breakaway speed as he has three yards of separation behind the coverage pre-catch, then pulls away from two defensive backs once he secures the catch for a big 90 plus pass play. On this play, he runs an In/out vertical/seam combo route where Gentry runs a vertical up the seam and the Slot receivers runs a bender route (Y post route). A very common cover 2 & 3 beater route concept. You can be sure you’ll see plenty of these and other vertical routes by Gentry.
On the next play, Wyoming has a 12 personnel (1 running back/2 tight ends) formation with the 2 wide receivers on the right side of the formation. At the snap of the ball you can see Wyoming going max protect so they send out only the two wideouts running routes. Here Wyoming runs a sort of “Mills” combo route which is a levels high/low concept. In this combo route the Slot runs a flat crossing route with an option to divert into a dig route if the coverage dictates. Here he runs the flat route. The Flanker (Gentry) runs a seam/post route that he slows up for as the pass is throw a tick late after badly beating his man, but still has time enough to catch the ball and power his way into the end zone.
At the 1:20 mark it’s hard to see what the pre-snap formation was from where the video starts but it is a 4 route play in the red zone. Just not sure if it’s with 4 wides or 3 wides and a Tight End or Running Back running a route. In this formation Gentry works out of the slot to the right of the formation Both outside receivers run inside breaking routes (left Flaker runs a dig, right Split End a slant) both slot guys run simple out routes in the end zone. Gentry receives the pass and toe straddles the line in bounds beautifully while his body is leaning out of bounds, but his feet remain in bounds where he catches the pass for the touchdown.
At the 1:26 mark there is no way of telling the formation, but it appears to be a broken play where the quarterback has to improvise and roll out of the pocket to his left and throws across his body along the left sideline where Gentry high points the ball and catches it at the one and falls in for a 40 yard touchdown. Excellent body control on Gentry’s part as well as good hands and leaping ability.
His ability to help out on scramble drills is shown again at about the 1:50 mark. Josh Allen breaks the pocket and rolls to his right and hits Gentry beautifully who runs across the back line of the end zone coming back to the quarterback in text book fashion in the scramble rules and is rewarded with the touchdown reception.
After this point there’s about a 60 second spurt of catch after catch without showing formations and there are a bunch of routes like a quick slant and scramble drill stuff. At the 2:55 mark Gentry makes an incredible one handed catch where he reaches around a corner who is draped on him and clearly makes contact before the ball arrives at the end zone and falls in for the touchdown. Yet another highlight catch by the young man showing strength to stay upright, and concentration as well as hand strength. Again, how was this kid not drafted?
At the 3:08 mark Wyoming runs another In/Out Vertical/seam combo route. Gentry on the seam receives the pass for another long touchdown. At the 3:20 mark he catches a pass on the sidelines in the end zone where he catches the ball with his hands and body out of bounds, but comes down after leaping for the ball with his feet in bounds for a beautiful one handed touchdown reception.
There are three more plays to end the tape showing Gentry catching touchdown passes. One thing the kid shows is a nose for the end zone. That’s for sure. His production matches his measurables. His senior year was very productive and in a brief seven game sample in his junior year he was headed for a monster season as well before he was injured. You can view his career stats here
, but the main senior season numbers are eye popping (14 games/72 receptions/1326 yards/18.4 yds a catch/14 Tds).
In Tanner Gentry the Bears appear to have hit on a diamond in the rough. He could have a career much like teammate and veteran wide receiver Victor Cruz who went from nobody UDFA to star. Not saying Gentry is a lock to have that big of an impact right off the bat if ever, but it’s pretty clear this kid has a place on this 53 man roster. I don’t believe he makes it through waivers to get on the practice squad especially once word comes out about how well he competes against NFL caliber talent in practices and shows some good tape in pre-season games. The Bears will have to make a place for this impressive looking talent.
He also could help lessen the sting of losing their top split end in Alshon Jeffery who can run the same type of routes and make the same kind of catches in the offense. Not going as far as saying he’s a lock to make the 53 man roster, but he’s as close as it gets from a UDFA rookie wide receiver. I try not to use personal opinion in my pieces, but in this case, unless he’s injured and put on injured reserve he makes the roster out of camp.