Tarik Cohen had a better day running the ball last Sunday than he did at any point last season.
Cohen's 41 yards on seven carries against the Detroit Lions were more than he recorded during any game in 2019, including seven games where he finished with under 10 rushing yards.
As one part of the three-headed rushing attack, along with David Montgomery and Cordarrelle Patterson, Cohen feels at ease with the new blocking scheme implemented by new offensive line coach Juan Castillo.
"In coach Juan's scheme, we're really finding out how to go about things, where to read [the defense]," said Cohen. "The [offensive] line is doing a great job of getting us to the line of scrimmage, even further than that at times. That was the first thing that got us good on the run. We feel like, all three running backs, when you get that running game going first, it does wonders for our confidence."
Echoing the sentiments of quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, Cohen believes that the Bears' early success on the ground set the stage for the passing-led fourth-quarter comeback.
"I feel like it builds confidence within the offense," said Cohen, "the play-calling and also the individual groups like the O-line and the running backs. Just having those 16-yard runs, 10-plus yard runs and almost having a 6-yard average in the rushing game. It makes the play-caller comfortable calling anything."
Last season, Cohen not only saw his carries decrease, but also his efficiency. During his first two seasons, Cohen averaged 4.4 yards per carry as he established himself as a valuable change-of-pace supplement to Jordan Howard.
However, last season, that average dipped to 3.3. Many of his carries ended at the sideline, as Cohen looked for more space to spring a big play, but ran out of room.
Cohen acknowledged that he was looking to become a more vertical runner in the season opener, with apparent results. Cohen's 5.9 yards per carry against the Lions marked his highest average since the matchup against the Los Angeles Rams in December of 2018.
"I gotta show the world that I'm a big back," said Cohen, "a short down, short distance back, goal-line type of back. I just want to get there, get behind my pads and just run people over."
While it may seem like Cohen is joking, as he is known to do, he is not as slight and contact-averse as one might expect from a player listed at 5-6. Cohen's listed weight is 191 pounds. He was used as a workhorse back at FCS school North Carolina A&T. In his final college season, he averaged over 20 carries a game as a junior while being used effectively, yet sparingly, as a receiving threat.
"That's really my type of game," said Cohen. "I'm a bruising back. Y'all think of me as a shifty back. But in my heart, in my heart of hearts, I'm a power back. I just have to show the world that."
Cohen spoke in the offseason about bouncing back to his 2018 form. While he was only targeted twice as a receiver against the Lions, a more functional offense may provide more opportunities. He expects the team to add a few wrinkles to their game this Sunday against the New York Giants.
"I feel like we're a team that plays better against man [to-man defense]," said Cohen, "and they challenge us with a lot of zone. The scheme that we're putting in this week and the confidence we have in each other to do the right things and be in the right spots and for everybody to make their own plays and just do their job, it's nothing we can't overcome. We're really up for the challenge."