On a team where Mitch Trubisky is the face of the franchise and Allen Robinson is firmly entrenched as WR1, I would contend that no player embodies the evolution of the Chicago Bears offense more than Tarik Cohen.
As a rookie in 2017, Cohen was electrifying whenever he touched the ball. Whether he was a return specialist, getting hand-offs in the backfield, receptions in the flat, or lined up as a wide receiver, Cohen was must-see-TV when he was on the field and given the ball. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen as often as it should have last season. Cohen was in on just 36.4 percent of the offensive plays and was out-snapped by (among others) Dontrelle Inman and Kendall Wright, neither of whom are on the team any more.
But with a new head coach, offensive coordinator, and position coach in house, a new set of eyes has made Cohen a featured part of the offense, even though he isn’t technically the feature back by traditional standards. Jordan Howard has out-snapped Cohen 470-375, but Cohen has seen a significant up-tick in action. Cohen has played 46.2 percent of the offensive snaps this year and has made the most of it.
Check this out: Cohen is on pace for 879 receiving yards, 420 rushing yards, and 8 total touchdowns in 178 touches. Because I’m a nice guy, I’ve done the math for you – that’s 1,299 yards of total offense. You probably didn’t see that coming because Cohen, as I pointed out a few sentences ago, doesn’t have a traditional role in the offense. But who’s to say what is traditional in this new-fashioned NFL?
As far as I’m concerned, the Bears are doing with Cohen now what they should have been doing last year – and that’s get the ball to their playmakers in space.
It’s a game like Sunday’s performance against the Giants that helps you understand how Cohen has accumulated so many yards of offense:
— NFL (@NFL) December 3, 2018
That highlight package featured Cohen as a single-back, a shotgun back, a receiver lined up outside going deep down the sideline, a back catching wheel routes and Texas patterns, and eventually throwing a touchdown pass.
Last Sunday’s game had some pretty unique historical context:
— ProFootballReference (@pfref) December 3, 2018
Tarik Cohen of the @ChicagoBears had 12 receptions for 156 yards and also threw a touchdown pass today.
— Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS) December 2, 2018
Any time you can do something that only Jerry Rice has done before, you’re not just doing something right. You’re doing special things.
In addition to all those roles, he is also still doing his thing on special teams:
Yeah, I had Dante Hall flashbacks. Cohen makes me want to fire up a PlayStation and see what kind of return magic I can come up with when he has the ball.
The Bears are going through a magical season, but it’s not a smoke-and-mirrors thing. Players like Tarik Cohen are actually being allowed to become play-makers on the field, rather than being held behind because they might not fit what a prior generation believed a playmaker should look like. Credit should go to the Bears’ coaches for putting Cohen in a position to succeed and getting him on the field more often in the process. But more than anything, Cohen deserves to be showered with praise and adoration for making the most of his increased opportunities.