Tarik Cohen takes a handoff, runs right and immediately sees three defenders in his path. Instead of going down easily and waiting for his next opportunity, Cohen manages to freeze all three, and sprint by for a nine-yard gain.
Nobody can really explain how Cohen managed that run in the first quarter against Arizona. It doesn’t make sense. He should’ve been stopped for a loss. And that wasn’t the first time he’s had an improbable run this preseason. He’s already made a habit of it, just as he did in college and it’s becoming very clear that the Bears have a special player to complement their already special back, Jordan Howard.
But how they’ll manage to get the most out of both remains to be seen.
Howard didn’t play against the Cardinals and Cohen only got one carry in the first two drives before Howard exited the Bears preseason game against Denver. If the Bears are going to maximize their offensive potential this season, they’ll need to be able to use both players together.
It’s not as easy as you might think.
— Andrew Dannehy (@ChiBearsAD) August 21, 2017
The player Cohen is most often compared to is Darren Sproles, who didn’t have more than 200 yards from scrimmage until his third season. Sproles entered the league with Marty Schottenheimer as his coach but one of the greatest play callers of all time, Norv Turner, took over in 2007. In their first season together, Sproles — used primarily as a return man — managed just 195 yards from scrimmage.
As great as he was, Turner never did figure out a way to get his two special backs involved simultaneously. It wasn’t until 2008 when LaDainian Tomlinson started slowing down that Turner started to use Sproles more. That season he had 672 yards from scrimmage and six touchdown. The next year, he nearly equaled Tomlinson’s production, but LT was 30 and on his way out.
Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains hasn’t really shown us much in terms of how he intends to use Cohen and he shouldn’t until the regular season starts. The rookie scat back has moved around a lot more in training camp practices than he did in the first two games and he could spend a chunk of time as a de facto slot receiver this year.
But Cohen has shown that he’s more than just a gimmicky third down back. He can take handoffs and make things happen. He should be touching the ball at least 10 times a game, but doing that and keeping Howard’s attempts up won’t be easy.
The biggest criticism of Loggains last year was that he didn’t get the ball in the hands of the league’s second-leading rusher enough. Now, he has two backs who should be getting the ball a combined 30 times a game.
A better defense will help. The Bears were getting killed a lot last year and didn’t have much of a choice but to throw it. But there were other times where it just seemed that he wanted to throw more than he should.
Getting both players involved isn’t just about the best interest of the 2017 Bears, but the future of the team. Running backs have short shelf lives. It’s possible that Norv could’ve extended LT’s career if he figured out how to use Sproles — or Michael Turner — a couple of years earlier. If Loggains can use both Howard and Cohen effectively, it should help extend both of their careers and, in all likelihood, will help Loggains move on to the next step in his.