Rookie running back Tarik Cohen has done a little bit in a lot of areas for the Chicago Bears, and he’s looking to do more when the second half of the season begins Sunday against the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field.
“I feel like I could handle more touches if that’s what the offense needs me to do,” said the 5-foot-6, 181-pound fourth-round pick. “I’m all for the team, and anywhere I need to be on the field, if I need to be the decoy guy or if I need the ball in my hands, I’m for it.”
Cohen has picked up 228 yards on 54 carries for a 4.2-yard average and 1 touchdown. He has caught a team-high 28 passes for 234 yards, an 8.4-yard average and another TD.
The offensive gadget also has returned 17 punts for 135 yards (7.9-yard average) and 5 kickoffs for 127 yards (25.4-yard average). And don’t forget his 21-yard TD pass to tight end Zach Miller in the 27-24 victory over the Baltimore Ravens in Week 6.
Because Cohen has been so effective as a pass catcher out of the backfield and also lined up as a wide receiver, opponents know they must account for him. He can no longer fly under the radar, but the increased attention from defenders also makes him a more effective decoy.
“(Teams) figure that out,” Bears coach John Fox said. “These guys are all bright coaches, and (they) have put more people toward him in coverage.
“We have to be able to adjust to that moving forward, and with the addition of getting some people back (from injury), hopefully we’ll be able to do something about it.”
Cohen spent the Bears’ bye last weekend watching high school, college and NFL football. He noted the difference in the length of seasons. His alma mater, North Carolina A&T, remained undefeated with a 35-7 victory over Norfolk State to get to 9-0.
“They have two games left, (with the) possibility of three,” Cohen noted. “We have eight.”
But he dismissed any notion of him hitting the “rookie wall.”
“I feel like I’m good,” he said. “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.”
That’s probably because he had 538 touches in his final two years of college and rushed for more than 1,100 yards all four seasons.
“I feel like it’s been going well,” he said. “I don’t feel like I’ve been overworked or had an overload put on me. I feel like I’m taking everything they want me to do in the playbook and really running with it in stride.
“It’s not necessarily a lot in one area, it’s just bits and pieces in a lot of areas, so I feel like I’m able to handle that.”
In assessing his first eight games as a pro, Cohen said he has room for improvement. He now knows that there are times when he has to settle for getting what’s blocked instead of swinging for the home run on every carry.
“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 just running between the tackles and not try to be too greedy.”
Then again, Cohen’s 70-yard reception is the Bears’ longest play from scrimmage this season, his touchdown pass was the first by a Bears rookie running back since Gale Sayers in 1965, and 3 of his 54 carries have gone for more than 25 yards.
So he’s obviously doing a lot of things the right way.
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