For quarterback Mitch Trubisky to take that next, important step in his development he’ll need a little help from his friends – some of whom might get overlooked for time to time.
Indeed, Bleacher Report’s Sean Tomlinson selected running back Tarik Cohen as an unheralded building block for the Bears’ future, and we totally agree.
Cohen embraced a number of roles in the Bears’ offense in his rookie season – the 5-foot-6-inch running back played on 483 total snaps, splitting his time between the offense (360) and special teams (123) – which included time as a running back, wide receiver, return specialist, and Wildcat quarterback. And yet, he was still underutilized and relatively unheralded because he was in on just 36.4 percent of the offense’s plays. But based on his rookie year production, Cohen should be in line for more playing time in 2018.
Of course, with Jordan Howard entrenched as the starter, Cohen will have to continue providing quality, complimentary work out of the backfield too. Fortunately, the NFL playoffs have already shown how valuable it is to have two reliable running backs operating at once, so it’s not much of a stretch to believe that the 2017 fourth-round pick could easily be a key contributor in that manner next season.
But what makes Cohen stand out as an under-the-radar building block are the mismatches he creates by lining up in several different places in a given formation. Nearly 45 percent of his offensive snaps came while he was lined up not as a running back, but as a receiver (and more than 60 percent of Cohen’s total offensive snaps came on pass plays, including 212 in which he was out running a pattern). More than 22 percent of his targets came while he was lined up in the slot and not when he was coming out of the backfield. In other words, Cohen is a mismatch waiting to happen, and if the Bears are wise, they’ll use it to their advantage often. After all, Cohen’s 82.3 receiving grade from Pro Football Focus was the eighth best among running backs in 2017.
There’s clearly some untapped potential bottled up in this human joystick, so perhaps it’ll just take a fresh set of eyes (Matt Nagy’s, in particular) to unleash it.