By Chris Emma—
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. (CBS) – A buzz went through Bears camp as rookie running back Tarik Cohen split through the defense and burst down the field Wednesday.
The smallest guy on the field knows how to make a big impression. And you better believe he loves the spotlight.
“I know I’m going to get the oohs and the ahhs,” Cohen said after practice. “So it’s kind of like showing off a little bit.”
Cohen’s name is emerging just a week into training camp at Olivet Nazarene, and the Bears’ belief in him is becoming clear.
Cohen’s name was hardly known when the Bears made the bold selection to choose him in the fourth round of this past April’s draft. Nobody expected the pick of a 5-foot-6 running back out of North Carolina A&T. Upon making the selection, Bears general manager Ryan Pace referred to Cohen as a “joker back” – an indication of the role that he could find in due time. Cohen could be used all over the Bears’ offense.
“He’s a matchup problem,” Bears coach John Fox said.
Last season, the Bears found their rock at running back in the form of Jordan Howard, who broke the franchise’s rookie rushing record with 1,313 yards on the ground in 13 starts. Howard became a breakout star and just what the Bears needed after moving on from Matt Forte.
Howard is a force with his ability to run between the tackles and move toward the next level. For what he lacks in top-end speed, Howard makes up in his ability to get through the line and fight for extra yards.
Cohen could be the ideal complement to Howard – the lightning to Howard’s thunder. He’s a slippery force in the open field and difficult for defenders to locate and take down.
“Considering my size, if a defender really gets hands on me – like, a good grip on me – then, most likely, he’s going to make that tackle,” Cohen said. “Me evading that tackler is definitely important.”
Early on, it seems as if Cohen may be hard to catch on the football field. He boasts the ability to make a quick cut and burst upfield. It’s why the Bears are also trying him as a punt returner. Cohen figures to play a role in the passing game, too.
The Bears are eager to see how Cohen can fit into their plans, and he has fans plenty intrigued.
Extra points: Bears guard Josh Sitton returned to practice on Wednesday after missing the first week with the birth of a child … Safety Harold Jones-Quartey left practice after rolling an ankle … Cornerback Prince Amukamara was excused from practice as his wife underwent an appendectomy.