Matt Waldman’s Rookie Scouting Portfolio NFL Lens examines Chicago Bears weapon Tarik Cohen, noting the successes in 2017 and the opportunities for more in 2018.
Cohen was my top situational running back in my 2017 pre-draft publication of the Rookie Scouting Portfolio:
An electrifying player, Cohen is a slippery athlete with phone booth quicks and breakaway speed. He succeeded as the primary back at A&T because he could break down defenses with his improvisational flights. However, Cohen is not the second-coming of Barry Sanders and—with all respect to the excellent Lance Zierlein—he’s not Darren Sproles 2.0.
The Sproles reference is a good one for the role Cohen could eventually earn, but they don’t match 1:1 in terms of skills and athletic ability. I think Zierlein understands this, but it might not be captured with a quick sound bite comparison. Sproles is a disciplined runner with great execution of his blocking schemes. Cohen is as undisciplined as one can imagine in this area.
Even so, he’s a good down-field receiver who tracks the ball as well as any back in this class. Give Cohen targets where he’s already in space, and he could wreak havoc on a defense. The role I see as a great fit for him is similar to the one Kansas City created for Tyreek Hill. Cohen is not as fast as Hill, but his vision, elusiveness, and creativity are on par.
Short but not small, Cohen earned enough trust from the conservative John Fox to see the field immediately.
After watching his debut against the Atlanta Falcons, it appeared the Bears might use Cohen to his capabilities. By midseason, we saw that the Bears continued using Cohen in some dynamic ways but the team didn’t maximize the volume of opportunities that fit Cohen’s potential.
In the thread of videos below, here are my takeaways of Cohen’s successes and opportunities from the 2017 tape:
- Cohen flashed in the deep game during isolated moments of the season and methods to get him open should have been used more often.
- The Bears had good ideas for getting Cohen mismatches but fell back on screen and slot receiver gadgetry that was predictable.
- Cohen is a quality NFL running back who can turn broken plays into big plays.
- Some of Cohen’s best runs were reversals of field.
- The Bears could save Cohen’s stamina by using more misdirection plays that give Cohen some of that reversal of field opportunity more efficiently.
These ideas and the video below set up my next analysis: How Bears head coach and former Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy used Tyreek Hill and how that usage could serve as the model for Cohen in 2018. Read it here.