“The main thing I heard coming into this week was people being like, ‘I had you on my bench. I should’ve started you. I’m a believer now,” Cohen said before Wednesday's practice.
Cohen made a lot of people believers in Week 1 when he totaled 158 all-purpose yards, the most ever by a Bears rookie in his season-debut, and a touchdown in Chicago's 23-17 loss to Atlanta.
“Well, the secret's out,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “Everybody knows who Tarik is now. You talk about Tarik, give him a lot of credit. He played quarterback (on a Wildcat play), slot receiver, outside receiver, running back. He's a smart kid. I told you guys the greatest asset the kid has outside the physical skills is he might be our hardest practice player. Works his tail off. Loves football. It's important to him. He's a playmaker. The Bucs have seen the tape and they're obviously going to be aware of where he's at and I'm sure they're going to work really hard to take him away.”
The fourth-round pick out of North Carolina A&T is listed at only 5-foot-6, but that didn’t stop Loggains from sending him over the middle on pass patterns – Cohen was targeted 12 times by quarterback Mike Glennon.
Cohen took a couple of massive hits from Falcons defenders last Sunday, but each time bounced right back up.
“The kid, his heart and his toughness and his passion for football – I don’t think he [worries about taking big hits],” said Loggains, who's also 5-6. “I think he thinks about how he can help the team. He’s fearless. He knows it’s coming. He does a good job of ball security. I’m not worried about that. Obviously, we don’t want him out there taking a ton of hits, and that’s the part we haven’t talked about, what he’s done on special teams as a punt returner. That’s part of it. It’s a violent game. I have a tremendous amount of respect for how he plays the game. Don’t look at him as 5-foot-6, because he doesn’t look at himself that way.”
It was almost a perfect debut for Cohen, expect that the Bears took him off the field late in the fourth quarter with the game on the line; a curious decision since the offense – down six points - faced first-and-goal at the 5 with 21 seconds to play.
Loggains explained why the Bears kept Cohen on the bench.
“Because Tarik played quarterback, slot receiver, outside receiver, running back, small-school kid, he has a big portion of the game plan and in certain situations, he's not ready to handle the burden of everything right now,” Loggains said. “So we pick and choose the plays that he can and can't handle - I shouldn't say can't handle, isn't quite ready for it - because it's a fine line for him because he can do so much. He's a true joker running back that can also play receiver and play quarterback and do some of those things and run zone reads. We have to pick and choose and make sure that we don't overload him and allow him to play fast.”
Moving forward, however, Cohen is likely to be on the field in the waning moments of a close game – especially since veteran Benny Cunningham (the team’s best blocker at running back ) is dealing with a high ankle sprain.
To any skeptics who were on the fence about Cohen prior to Week 1, he more than validated his spot in the NFL by his performance versus the Falcons.
“I feel like I just proved that I’m a player, a football player, no matter my size, no matter where I’ve come from as far as my college and that I’m just a football player and I can make plays for this team,” Cohen said.
“I feel bigger than everybody on the field.”