In Tarik Cohen, the Chicago Bears have the football equivalent of a bar of soap dropped on the shower floor than trying futilely in vain to pick up. That’s exactly how opposing defenses felt trying to tackle Cohen during his college career. The Bears are hoping NFL defenses feel equally as such and by the looks of it so far with his camp performance he’s a sure bet to be that slippery bar of soap.
While he certainly has earned his nickname the human joystick, running the ball and his ability to factor in the passing game as a receiver makes him so damn intriguing. Cohen is super athletic, it’s in the tape, in both of his games on YouTube and especially the one of him doing backflips while simultaneously catching passes with both hands at the same time. That also highlights his extremely strong and large hands for a man of any size but freakishly so for a 5’6″ guy with over 10″ hands. Also, his ability to block blitzers and run routes not to mention picking up the offense and learning his reads, audibles, and assignments. Cohen appears to be a very heady kid so that part should come easy. It is and always will be about how does he hold up physically to men much bigger than him.
His college tape is probably not a good place to go for predicting what the Bears will do with him. I would say going back to 2013 Tennessee video where Dowell Loggains was the offensive coordinator and had a similar back in Chris Johnson, and with the 2015 Bears tape where Loggains was the quarterback’s coach under Adam Gase where Matt Forte was used as a receiver quite a bit a year after breaking the all time record for single season receptions for running backs the season prior in 2014.
However, his college tape does offer a glimpse into his abilities and shows you what he’s capable of on the football field. It’s what I’m going to attempt to do by going over 3 plays and breaking it down showing how it applies to what the Bears saw in him and why they drafted him. They clearly have a plan with him and I’m anxious to see what the Bears and Loggains vision for him actually materializes out to be.
I’m going to be breaking down plays from the 2015 NC A&T versus Alcorn State game from draftbreakdown.com via youtube. First play comes at the 0:53 mark. This is a run play where the NC A&T offense is in 11 personnel (1 RB/1TE) with Cohen on the Quarterbacks right hip in shotgun formation. At the snap, Cohen runs past the face of the quarterback from right to left on the read option and gets the handoff running towards the left sideline where he makes a spin move off of the guard’s block in the left flat and then runs across the middle of the field back to his right. At that point, he stops for a split second, making a hesitation move and then accelerates past 3 potential tacklers about 40 yards.Then later in his run, he makes some kind of crazy cut back, ala Gale Sayers, to avoid a tackler to his left and then another to his right. Finally, 5 more yards into his run and then just out runs the defense from that point on for a long 74 yard touchdown run.
The next play is the last of the three long touchdown runs he makes in this game. In this clip, you see both his suddenness with a lightning quick cut and you also see his long speed to take it to the house. This run takes place at the 7:40 mark of the video. NC A&T are in 10 Personnel (1RB/0TE) formation at their own 27 yard line. Cohen is line up at the Quarterback’s left hip in shotgun formation. At the snap Cohen gets the handoff and darts through the line right up the gut and makes a cut so sharp and so quick that it would beat a blink a yard past the line of scrimmage off of the pulling right guards block and then turns on the jets and takes it all the way to the end zone pulling away from the pursuing defensive backs for a 73 yard touchdown.
In the next clip I picked at the 6:15 mark of the video, Cohen shows you how he can be valuable as a weapon in the passing game. Here, NC A&T are in 10 personnel starting from their own 19. At the snap, Cohen acts as though he’s in to block as the 3 of the 4 Wide Receivers run verticals and one runs a crossing pattern to block in the second level to spring Cohen. Cohen then turns to look for the screen pass. The strong side linebacker nor the middle linebacker are fooled as they read the pulling linemen and actually beat the blockers to Cohen, but here he shows his surprising strength and stays upright and keeps driving his legs while the MIKE LB wraps him up and the SAM LB goes for the ball. Eventually, Cohen breaks the tackle and rips the ball away from the SAM backer trying to strip it from him and he turns it on down the sideline lowering a shoulder and breaking another tackle from a DB going for a kill shot to knock him out of bounds but bounces off of Cohen. Cohen then makes a jump cut ten yards after the third tackle attempt to leave another would be tackler on the turf to watch him finish the run at the opponent’s 29 yard line for a 50 yard gain.
In conclusion, one sees the explosive combination of speed and quickness from Cohen when watching his NC A&T videos, but you also see his physical play. Breaking tackles with shoulder dip and spins and cuts ripping away from arm tackles and grasping hands. There’s even a clip on this very video of Cohen standing up and blocking a linebacker on a blitz to a standstill. Of course, the level of competition isn’t what it will be in the NFL with grown men who physically look like monsters and move like gazelles. However, you can see there are still very good athletes much larger than him and he does not shy away from contact.
I believe Cohen can use his diminutive size as an advantage making it hard to see him coming out of the line of scrimmage behind his offensive line not to mention his natural leverage advantage. In Cohen, the Bears have a player with exciting possibilities who can be a 3rd down matchup nightmare defenses have to respect which will also benefit his teammates as you have to keep someone behind and out of coverage to account for Cohen. If Loggains shows the creativity to take advantage of such a unique weapon things could become very exciting for the Bears offense and increase Bears fans entertainment value in 2017.