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Cohen not worried about hitting rookie wall

Posted Nov 6, 2017

Eight games into his NFL career, versatile Bears running back Tarik Cohen sees no indications that he’ll have to contend with the proverbial rookie wall.

Tarik Cohen spent his bye weekend watching high school, college and NFL games, a clear indication that the Bears rookie running back didn't need a mental break from football.

Cohen is feeling just as good physically eight games into his NFL career, and although he's heard about the proverbial rookie wall, he sees no signs of it looming in his future.

"I feel like I'm good," Cohen said Monday at Halas Hall. "I'm refreshed. The bye week came at a perfect time. But even before the bye week I didn't necessarily feel like I was getting sluggish or running into any type of wall."

Jordan Howard
Bears running back Tarik Cohen rushes against the Ravens.

Cohen has been asked to do a little bit of everything in his rookie season, lining up as a running back, wide receiver and wildcat quarterback while also returning punts and kickoffs and even throwing a touchdown pass on a halfback option play.

"I feel like it's been going well," Cohen said. "I don't feel like I've been overworked. I feel like I'm taking everything they want me to do in the playbook and really running with it in stride because it's not necessarily a lot in one area; it's bits and pieces in a lot of areas, so I feel like I'm able to handle that."

At the midpoint of his rookie season, Cohen has rushed for 228 yards and one touchdown on 54 carries, caught a team-high 28 passes for 234 yards and one TD, and averaged 7.9 yards on 17 punt returns and 25.4 yards on five kickoff returns.

The fourth-round draft pick from North Carolina A&T also boasts a perfect 158.3 passer rating, having completed his only attempt for a 21-yard touchdown to tight end Zach Miller Oct. 15 in an overtime win over the Ravens.

With so many different responsibilities, Cohen leans on his teammates for assistance.

"If I've got a route, then I look at the wide receivers for help," he said. "In the running game, I'm looking at Jordan [Howard] and Benny [Cunningham]. And in the quarterback game, I'm looking at Mitch [Trubisky] and Mike [Glennon]."

After averaging more than 12 touches on offense over the first six games of the season, Cohen has had a total of six in the last two contests.

"I feel like I could handle more touches if that's what the offense needs me to do," he said. "I'm all for the team and anywhere I need to be on the field, or if I need to be the decoy guy or if I need the ball in my hands, I'm all for it."

Asked to assess his performance eight games into his career, Cohen said that he has liked "my ability to make plays being a rookie and just coming to this level and automatically fitting in the offense" and needs to work on "running between the tackles, taking what's there and not trying to be too greedy."

Expanding on that, Cohen acknowledged that he needs to be content with hitting a single instead of always swinging for the fences on some of his inside runs.

"I may have been a little too patient," he said. "I have to take what's there and trust the offensive line and just really hit the hole harder."

With a fellow rookie in Trubisky continuing to develop at the all-important quarterback position, Cohen is excited about the future of the Bears offense.

"You can just see the upside he has, especially in the huddle," Cohen said. "The intangibles like the leadership he has, you can feel that in the huddle, just feel that he's going to make the play and if you listen to him he'll lead you to the promised land."