CHICAGO -- Rookie Tarik Cohen is the Bears' most exciting player since Devin Hester.
The difference between the two is that while Hester was a converted defensive back, Cohen already has a stronger foundation on offense.
The Bears need to capitalize on that.
As the organization regroups in the offseason following another playoff-less campaign -- 10 of 11 years -- the decision-makers on offense, whoever they turn out to be, have to keep finding creative ways of getting Cohen the football in 2018.
Cohen is technically a gadget player, but he has the most big-play potential on the roster -- by a mile.
Six touches on offense simply aren’t enough.
“He’s so explosive,” Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky said on Sunday. “We love the punt return for a touchdown. He keeps the offense off the field, but we’ll take the touchdown for sure. He’s exciting to watch, and we have to get him the ball. He’s everything you want as a teammate. He’s making big plays and he’s pushing guys in practice. He gets excited when the offensive scout team is playing well. He just brings this energy and dynamic. He’s exactly what you want in a teammate. He has that competitive fire. I think if more guys can feed off that, and have that edge to them that we’re going to get it done no matter what, I think it’s contagious. Tarik really brings that to the table.”
It has to be mentioned that Chicago possessed the ball for only 21:13 against San Francisco. But with so few established threats on offense, the Bears can’t be shy about prioritizing Cohen.
Like Hester, Cohen has the speed to score every time he touches the ball.
Look no further than Cohen’s 61-yard punt-return touchdown when the rookie literally stole a page out of Hester’s old playbook.
Mid-second quarter, Cohen fielded a punt at Chicago’s 39-yard line and ran backwards 15 yards toward the Bears' sideline before he reversed field and outraced the Niners’ coverage team to the end zone.
“It was designed for me to get to the left somehow,” Cohen explained. “So when I first got it, it was my job to set the defense up. They were really coming aggressively, so that’s why I had to take it that far back to finally turn around and get back to the left side. When I got back to the left side I had all my teammates there, my blockers, to escort me to the end zone. I was worried I might get tackled for a loss of yards. But then in that case, like my coaches always tell me, I had to trust my speed, just go with the plan, and go back left.
“My fullback, Michael Burton, had joked about it on the sideline; he said I ran like 150 yards to get 61.”
Cohen is the first Bear to have a passing touchdown, rushing touchdown, receiving touchdown and punt-return touchdown in his rookie year since Hall of Famer Gale Sayers in 1965, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
No one is labeling Cohen the next Gale Sayers, but it’s rare for the Bears to have a player that can threaten an opponent in so many ways. Getting better play out of Trubisky is the main offseason priority, but coming up with more packages for Cohen has to be on the to-do list.
“It’s great to be in company with Gale Sayers, one of the greatest running backs not only in Chicago Bears history but in the NFL,” Cohen said. “So just to be among that namesake, it’s wonderful and I’m looking forward to building.”