Bears rookie Tarik Cohen has demonstrated great versatility in his first six NFL games, lining up as a running back, wide receiver and wildcat quarterback. The dynamic fourth-round draft pick has also returned punts and kickoffs and even thrown a touchdown pass.
So the logical question heading into Sunday’s home game against the Carolina Panthers, is what will Cohen do next? Maybe sell popcorn, park cars or sing the national anthem?
“I’ll punt the ball this week,” Cohen joked. “Nah, I’m playing. I can’t punt the ball for nothing I don’t think. It’ll probably go like 20 yards.”
If Cohen is indeed ever asked to punt, don’t be surprised if he booms a 50-yarder with just the right amount of hang time because the North Carolina AT product seems capable of accomplishing virtually anything on the football field.
“There’s nothing this kid can’t do,” said offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. “He’s an extremely talented athlete, a real hard worker. He’s a grinder. He really loves football. He’s very passionate about it, and he’s going to be a good player for a long time.”
So far this season Cohen has rushed for 226 yards on 50 carries and caught 26 passes for 158 yards and one touchdown. He made an immediate impact, setting a Bears record for most all-purpose yards by a rookie in his NFL debut with 158 in a Week 1 loss to the Falcons.
Having arrived together in this year’s draft, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is not surprised that Cohen has been able to excel in so many different aspects of the game.
“Not at all,” Trubisky said. “He is a very special and versatile player. I think a lot of it comes from the type of person he is; his personality and how he’s confident within himself. He’s able to take on that load. I think just coming from college they depended on him a lot to do different types of things.”
Cohen showed both his personality and confidence this week when discussing his 21-yard touchdown pass to tight end Zach Miller in last Sunday’s overtime win in Baltimore. Asked whether he was lobbying to play quarterback, Cohen said: “I’m just saying, numbers don’t lie.”
Cohen also boasted that he could throw a much longer pass with even more accuracy, saying: “I feel like my deep ball is the best thing I’ve got. I don’t feel like my short throw is as accurate. I feel like my deep balls are all going to be on the money.”
Last Sunday the 5-foot-6 Cohen became the shortest NFL player to throw a touchdown pass since New York Giants running back “Wee” Willie Smith—who also stood 5-6—in 1934. When informed of that fact, Cohen said: “Shout out to Wee Willie.”
Given that Loggains was a 5-6 backup quarterback at Arkansas in the early 2000s, the Bears offensive coordinator really appreciated Cohen’s pinpoint throw to Miller.
“I’ve never thrown a pass that accurate,” Loggains said. “That was incredible. We were kidding around in our offensive team meeting that it was the best ball thrown all day.
“Tarik is such a talented dude. He can do so many different things and be used so many different ways, and we’re really glad to have him.”
Trubisky gave Cohen a high grade for the pass, but joked that the play might be receiving just a little too much attention. When asked about it by a reporter this week, the quarterback said: “Dang, you guys can’t get enough of this. Dowell was saying it was the best pass of the game.
“It was awesome. Tarik made a throw like that earlier in I think training camp or something. So it wasn’t surprising at all. I was asking for the play. We were getting down there. They were in that [cover-two defense]. A good way to get them out of that is to run the ball and then a little trickeration. So we ran a little toss play and he threw a dime ball.
“I love how he was fading away on it and celebrating on the 50-yard line. Zach made a great catch. So I’d give it an A-plus. It was a really impressive spiral, especially with the gloves on. You can’t count any of that out. Tarik’s a special player and it was an awesome throw.”