Tarik Cohen’s Role: More “Thunder” Less “Lightning”

TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 17: Running back Tarik Cohen
TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 17: Running back Tarik Cohen /

Tarik Cohen is a third down back, and it’s time for the Chicago Bears to realize this fact. Keep feeding the proven NFL workhorse Jordan Howard.

With the 130th overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft the San Diego Chargers selected RB Darren Sproles out of Kansas State. Since that day Sproles has been the prototype for guys like Tarik Cohen to have their names called in the draft. The problem is Tarik Cohen is not Sproles, at least not yet.

Sproles’s rookie year he fumbled 3 times with a total of 8 rush attempts, 3 receptions, and 18 returns. Cohen has 3 fumbles through six games, with a ton more touches then Sproles had. Sproles’s 2017 season has been cut short due to injury, but during his best year, in 2011 with New Orleans he totaled over 1300 yards from scrimmage and accounted for 9 touchdowns, he fumbled once.

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Sproles is a proven NFL running back who has earned the right to have free reign on the football field. Tarik Cohen hasn’t earned that right. The Bears coaching staff is doing the young player a disservice by not defining his role in this offense. Cohen is a third down back, and your go-to back during the hurry-up offense, and 2-minute drill.

Through six games Cohen has 26 receptions for 158 yards, and one TD. 16 of those receptions and 102 of those yards, came during the first two weeks of the season. Bears coaches have put him, and the team, in bad spots when he rushes the ball on first down. In the Bears win against Baltimore, Cohen rushed nine times on first down for 20 yards, an average of 2.2 yards per carry. Cohen’s best first down carry of eight yards, at the end of the 3rd quarter, was followed up by a second down carry for minus-two yards and a lost fumble.

However, Howard rushed 19 times on first down for 104 yards, a 5.47 yard average in the Baltimore win. Three career fumbles for Howard, with over 1800 yards rushing, he is a proven feature back. For the Bears to win they must continue to feature him on first and second down. I suggest the Coaching staff use Cunningham and not Cohen to spell Howard on first and second down.

Tarik Cohen is not Darren Sproles yet. His upside is huge, but beating him up by running him on first and second down hinders his big play ability. Cohen will hit home runs for this team, if the coaches keep him fresh. Give him the green light on kickoff’s and punt returns; that’s what he does best. Most importantly, put him in on obvious passing downs, forcing linebackers to try to cover him. This will open up passing lanes for Bears tight ends, and continue to take pressure off Mitchell Trubisky. It is up to Coach Fox and his staff to put Cohen in the best position to make big plays.

Thunder is boring without lightning, but lighting can’t strike if its conditions aren’t right.