As a runner, receiver, returner and even passer, Tarik Cohen has more identities than a covert CIA agent. But that's just fine with the Bears' versatile second-year pro.
"I enjoy the challenge because you can make plays at a lot of different positions," Cohen said Sunday at Bears training camp. "And the more positions I am, the more opportunities I have to make those plays. It's just different things that I do."
Selected by the Bears in the fourth round of last year's draft out of North Carolina A&T, Cohen had a breakout rookie season. He rushed for 370 yards and two touchdowns on 87 carries, caught 53 passes for 358 yards and one TD, averaged 9.4 yards with one touchdown on 29 punt returns, averaged 22.4 yards on 26 kickoff returns and even threw a touchdown pass on a halfback option play.
In the process, Cohen became the first NFL rookie to generate a touchdown on a rush, reception, pass and punt return in a single season since Bears Hall of Famer Gale Sayers in 1965 and the first NFL player to do so since Terry Metcalf in 1975.
A year later, Cohen figures to once again be utilized in multiple roles, this time in a new offense that's being installed by first-year coach Matt Nagy and coordinator Mark Helfrich. Cohen is able to thrive in different roles not only because of his unique physical skills but also his ability to retain a plethora of information.
"He does have a large capacity, a big tank to fill up with plays," Nagy said. "We can move him around, do different things, and it's not too much for him. Some guys you can't do that. With him, we can but we just have to make sure we don't do too much."
The challenge in playing different positions is more mental than physical for Cohen, most notably when it comes to knowing where to line up.
"Sometimes you can go in and think you're at a different position," Cohen said. "That's some of the stuff that happened to me last year when I would mess up. But now I really think I have that down pat. I know where I'm going when I'm in the game."
Cohen said that he's able to handle the workload physically because "I'm not at running back for 20 snaps and then going to receiver. I'm probably at running back a couple of snaps and then I'll go to receiver and so on."
In practice, Cohen gets plenty of work in all of his different roles.
"In training camp, it's easy because you have so many different opportunities with all the reps," Nagy said. "The biggest thing is just monitoring them with their legs, making sure they're not doing too much. I've talked with the team and each guy individually and Tarik can go on and on and on. We know that and we as coaches can't abuse that and try to do too much."