Gabriel shined in Saturday's 33-30 win over the San Francisco 49ers, including a 34-yard touchdown catch from Kerry Collins. The Oakland Raiders hope that Gabriel continues his performance Saturday in a home preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys.
The reasons behind Brown's release were the fact that the Raiders felt that the 16-year veteran's skills were waning and that young receivers like Gabriel, Alvis Whitted, Ronald Curry and Johnnie Morant were ready to stand up and be counted.
"Around here, I still am a young receiver," Gabriel said. "We've got two rookies and I'm the same age as them. I still know my role on the team. I'm going to be myself."
Curry was the No. 3 receiver in the San Francisco game but Gabriel is one of many that could figure into the mix.
"We don't have one set receiver," Gabriel said. "It's the whole offense. Like coach (Norv) Turner said, ‘Everybody has got to expect the ball.'"
The Raiders drafted Gabriel last year in the fifth round from Central Florida. Gabriel plated sparingly as a receiver, catching one pass for 17 yards. He was a big factor as a kickoff returner, averaging 22.3 yards per return on 29 attempts.
"I'm just trying to build a big relationship with our wedge guys," Gabriel said. "I'm trying to get an understanding of what they're thinking so I can run off them."
Gabriel had a strong finish to last season. He returned a kickoff 71 yards to set up a field goal in a 20-12 loss to Baltimore. Gabriel also returned a kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown in a 21-14 loss to San Diego in the regular season finale. Gabriel and Francis, a fourth round pick from Texas Tech, figure to keep battling for the kickoff return job but Francis' 86-yard return for a score Saturday helped his cause. Gabriel has especially liked the addition of Joe Avezzano's honest and fiery approach as a special teams coach.
"I'm an honest person," Gabriel said. "I want somebody to be honest with me. If I'm not getting the job done, let me know. Don't just lead me on. Everybody is getting it done because he's going to let you know what's on his mind."