I’m still unsure how he did it, but Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains successfully turned a player who averaged 6.4 yards per carry in the preseason into a secret weapon for Week 1 of the regular season.
Rookie Tarik Cohen’s dazzling debut won’t get lost in the fact that the Bears lost a 23-17 heartbreaker to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. If anything, he’s arguably the biggest reason Chicago was in the game at all. Cohen picked up 66 yards on five carries, added 47 yards on eight catches, and tacked on 45 yards on punt returns to bring his total yardage to 158 – a new team rookie record.
Between turning a sure loss of yards into a big play to set up the team’s first score and Cohen’s first professional touchdown, odds are you’re not looking for further explanation to how he earned the nicknames “Chicken Salad” or “The Human Joystick” at this time.
It’s just one week, but Cohen has the look of a special player – one who might see more snaps than originally expected.
Pro Football Focus charted Cohen’s playing time and had him down for 28 snaps. Starter Jordan Howard was on the field for 38 snaps, while Benny Cunningham played just four – in part because he left with an injury. Of the 28 snaps Cohen was on the field for, 22 came on passing plays. Cohen already figured to be a key cog in the passing offense, and quarterback Mike Glennon ensured that would be the case by targeting him 12 times in the opener.
To put it in perspective, Cohen received twice the number of targets than tight end Zach Miller saw and eight more than the next leading Bears receiver.
Perhaps the playing time split might make fantasy owners uncomfortable, but the Howard-Cohen tandem has the kind of big play potential that could be important to a team that’s thin at receiver. The Bears suited up just four receivers on Sunday, including Kevin White, whose season might be over because of a collarbone injury. With changes at an already unstable position seemingly on the horizon, chances are the oft-targeted and reliable Cohen will continue to see a heavy dosage of work as a receiver.
Cohen flashed a little bit of everything on Sunday. He showed off his speed, agility, hands, a surprising amount of power, and the ability to take a hit and pop back up without flinching. Loggains lined him up at various locations in different formations, including in the slot where he ran him across the formation on a short crossing pattern and once sending him deep on a pass that fell incomplete in the end zone because of a spectacular play by a linebacker in coverage. Expect that to continue as the Bears work through their problems at receiver.