Mitch Trubisky caught our attention in training camp, and Eddie Jackson made waves by earning a job as a starting safety next to Quintin Demps, but the rookie who has been flying under the radar is Tarik Cohen – and he could turn out to be more valuable than you think.
Cohen started the summer down on the depth chart, but his preseason play launched him into backup status behind Pro Bowl back Jordan Howard. And why not? Cohen averaged 6.4 yards per rush (19 carries, 121 yards) as he ran effectively between the tackles and dazzled in the open field.
The Bears plucked Cohen in the fourth round, hoping his speed, agility, and playmaking skills would take the leap with him from FCS competition to the NFL. And while I hope you didn’t spend a high-round pick on Cohen in your fantasy league, I’d suggest putting him on a watch list and keep an eye on his usage.
NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah sees some big play potential on the horizon for this rookie back:
Cohen is primed to be the Bears’ change-of-pace and third-down back, which could allow him to get touches in the passing game. Bears running backs received only 15.3 percent of the team’s total receiving targets last year, but that number was at 20.4 percent in 2015. The major difference between the two teams is Matt Forte’s presence as a pass catcher still made him a dual threat, while the Bears’ top two backs last season caught just 62.3 percent of passes thrown their way last season. Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains could stand to dial up more plays designed to get the ball out of Mike Glennon’s hand quickly and into the hands of a dynamic player in the open field such as Cohen.
Head coach John Fox has 15 years of head coaching experience and a commitment to running the football has been a constant throughout his career. There have been seven seasons in which Fox’s teams have finished in the top-10 in rush attempts, five years where those teams have finished in the top-10 in rushing touchdowns, and four seasons in which is rushers have finished in the top-10 in yards per carry.
With the receivers corps littered with players who have yet to prove to be reliable targets down the field, it’s expected this Fox-led team will follow in the footsteps of the ones before it.