Tarik Cohen burst onto the scene with a record-setting debut against the Atlanta Falcons. After a few weeks later, Offensive Coordinator Dowell Loggains would go out on a limb and call the rookie running back the team’s best playmaker. Shortly thereafter, Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner said Cohen’s receiving skills reminded him of fellow Hall of Fame teammate Marshall Faulk and added Cohen’s double-move was better than some wide receivers.
And yet, one of the Chicago Bears’ most important rookies is mired in a slump entering the team’s Week 11 matchup against the Detroit Lions. Head Coach John Fox seems to like what he has seen from Cohen despite his dwindling playing time and defenses adjusting to take him out of the play:
More from Fox: "Defenses are doing more to take him away. I think there were situations in that game yesterday where he was doubled so we had to go to somebody else. Kendall Wright caught a ball where they were doubling over to the right on Cohen and he converted a third down."
— Adam Hoge (@AdamHoge) November 13, 2017
While Fox says getting Cohen on the field is “something I think our guys do,” it’s not something they have done lately. Cohen has played less than 30 percent of the team’s offensive snaps in five of the last six games and his diminishing presence in the passing game is alarming when considering the lack of depth and talent among the team’s active pass catchers.
Cohen owns the seventh-highest receiving grade among running backs at Pro Football Focus, but has seen the field on just 30 percent of the team’s pass plays since Mitch Trubisky took over as starting quarterback in Week 5. When Mike Glennon was the team’s starter for the first four games, Cohen played on 47.5 percent of the team’s passing snaps.
Cohen has rushed for just 48 yards in his last five games and has been mostly a non-factor as a receiver in recent games, with 60.2 percent of his receiving yards coming in the season’s first four games. But to be fair, it’s hard to produce when you’re not getting the ball or if you’re not even seeing the playing field.
Compounding matters are Fox’s concerns about increased attention Cohen is receiving from opposing defenses. Fox made note of situations where Cohen was a primary target, but double-teams forced Trubisky to go elsewhere. This should be a reason to get Cohen on the field more often. The Bears don’t have a traditional receiver worthy of demanding a double team, let alone garnering a hint of attention from two sets of eyes. Besides, it seemed to work on the play Fox referenced with Kendall Wright converting a third down thanks in part to the Packers defense being preoccupied dealing with the threat of Cohen.
If using Cohen as a decoy opens up others, so be it. This could force Trubisky to learn how to go through his reads and progressions quickly because, after all, Trubisky’s development should be the team’s top priority for the rest of 2017.