With his versatility and explosiveness, running back Tarik Cohen appears to be ideally suited for the new offense the Bears are installing under first-year coach Matt Nagy.
The scheme is a wide open one that calls for playmakers to line up all over the field in order to take advantage of their strengths and create favorable matchups.
“I feel like I fit very well into the offense,” Cohen said Wednesday during minicamp. “I’m doing a little bit of everything out here—outside receiver, in the slot and running back, and also special teams. I feel like this is the offense for me.”
Cohen enters his second NFL season looking to build on a breakout rookie year. After being selected by the Bears in the fourth round of the 2017 draft, the 5-6, 181-pounder displayed the same game-breaking ability that earned him the nickname “The Human Joystick” at North Carolina A&T.
Cohen 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 and averaged 22.4 yards on 26 kickoff returns. He also threw a 21-yard touchdown pass on a halfback option play.
Given his ability to excel in so many different areas, it’s tough to predict exactly how Cohen will be utilized by Nagy and first-year offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich.
“I feel like the role of being dynamic will be my biggest role,” Cohen said. “Being everywhere. Being the guy that defenses can’t necessarily get an exact scheme upon, so that will open up other guys.”
Being employed as a running back, receiver and return specialist, Cohen no doubt spends a lot of quality time studying his playbook.
“It’s a great thing that he has a lot to learn because that just means we’re trying to get him the ball in so many different ways in this offense and utilize him within this offense,” said quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.
“Tarik’s a really smart player and that’s the great thing about him. Not only is he dynamic with the ball in his hands, but he understands the offense and knows how to open up his other teammates as well whether it’s just doing his job making a block or running a specific route without the ball in his hands.
“We all know what he can do with the ball in his hands and for him to be a smart player who understands the offense we can pretty much line him up at any position and he could argue he could play my spot right now, too.”
Nagy has especially been impressed with Cohen’s ability to run routes like a polished receiver.
“Sometimes that can be a disadvantage to a defense because they’ve got to cover him all over the field,” Nagy said. “You can’t just put him in the backfield and say to the ‘Mike’ ‘backer ‘cover him.’ So we’ll try to do some things there.
“You can put him in a lot of different places, that’s obvious. But you need to balance that. You need to make sure that you’re not doing too much to where you slow him down. He’s an athletic kid that does a lot of things well. We’ll have some fun with him.”