Tarik Cohen-Darren Sproles comparisons were unavoidable in 2017.
Cohen – a mid-round pick just like Sproles – exhibited a strong and powerful running style, the ability to make tough catches out of the backfield, elite agility, plenty of elusiveness, and even more speed in his rookie season. Of course, for Cohen to turn into a Sproles-like figure for the Bears, he’ll need 11 more years of similar productivity and a few Pro Bowl appearances first.
But game recognizes game, and the Philadelphia Eagles running back definitely sees something in Cohen’s skill set. So much so, that Sproles recently suggested to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune that the Bears needed to play Cohen in space more often and create mismatches. It’s a nice concept, even if it’s not a new one – quarterback Mitch Trubisky was openly petitioning for this during the course of the 2017 season.
As for how the Bears offense can get the most out of Cohen, Sproles suggested seeking inspiration with how the New Orleans Saints used their stud rookie running back.
“They should watch New Orleans film. Watch some of that film,” Sproles said. “They’ve got to put him in spots like they did with Alvin Kamara.”
Kamara gained 728 yards on 120 carries and scored eight rushing touchdowns. He also added 81 catches, 826 yards, and five receiving scores. That’s a total of 1,554 scrimmage yards from the third-round pick who was splitting time in the Saints’ backfield with Mark Ingram, and at one point, Adrian Peterson.
It would help if Head Coach Matt Nagy and Offensive Coordinator Mark Helfrich played Cohen as much as the Saints did Kamara, who played on 44.9 percent of the offense’s snaps and was in on more than 50 percent of the team’s plays in eight games. As a point of comparison, Cohen played just 36.4 percent of the time and the only game in which he appeared on more than 50 percent of the offense’s snaps came all the way back in Week 2.
It’s not as if Cohen didn’t create mismatches, but it was evident former OC Dowell Loggains didn’t know how to make the most of them. If you’ll recall, Loggains said it was the defense that was dictating the on-field matchups in what might have been one of the most backward comments of the year. There is hope for the future, though. Remember, Loggains mentioned the Packers double-teamed Cohen in their Week 10 matchup, which he said marked the first time Green Bay had deployed a double-team against a Chicago offensive player in his three years with the team.
Despite his vast skillset that allowed the Bears to use him as a return specialist, second-string running back, Wildcat quarterback, and a receiver who lined up outside the numbers and inside the slot, Cohen was grossly misused (and underused) in 2017. Hopefully, that changes with Nagy, Helfrich, and a new offensive staff.