By Chris Emma–
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBS) — Four weeks ago, Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains stated during his weekly press conference that rookie running back Tarik Cohen was the best playmaker for his unit, one sorely lacking difference-makers.
“There’s definitely a threat now of knowing that, ‘Hey, when 29’s in the game, they use him in the passing game, they use him in the running game, he’s played Wildcats and he’s thrown a pass now,'” Loggains said days after beating the Ravens on Oct. 15. “I think it creates some, ‘Where is he at? What are they doing with him? Like, they’re motioning him out.’
“It definitely creates a different element to our offense that we need. We need Tarik to be that guy for us. The best playmaker we have. There’s no secret there. And he’s a guy who we’ll continue to use.”
Since Loggains made that statement, Cohen has carried the ball five times in three games and hauled in three passes. In a 23-16 loss to the Packers on Sunday, the Bears utilized Cohen for one carry that gained just one yard and targeted him twice, connecting just once for 10 yards. He was on the field for just 13 of 60 offensive snaps.
A Bears offense that ranks 29th in yards and points per game has been missing the potential boost from the player whom Loggains touted as their best playmaker available. Why is that?
On Monday, Bears coach John Fox attempted to explain the minimal usage for Cohen.
“Getting him on the field is something I think our guys do,” Fox said. “I think he’s still one of our leading receivers on the season. We went through a stretch there where maybe we didn’t throw the ball as much as some people. But he’s involved quite a bit.
“Defenses are doing more to take him away. There were situations in that game yesterday where he was doubled, and then we have to go to somebody else. Kendall Wright caught a ball where they were doubled over to the right on Cohen, and he converted a third down – in fact, the first third down of the game.”
In theory, the idea of a player like Cohen creating opportunities for a receiver like Wright should be considered a positive for the Bears, who have struggled all season getting targets free for rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.
A fourth-round pick for the Bears in April, Cohen broke onto the scene during the season opener against the Falcons. He carried the ball five times for 66 yards and added eight receptions for 47 yards and a touchdown. Cohen recorded eight receptions in his second game, four apiece in the next two but hasn’t caught more than one in a game since Week 4.
Cohen has also been sparingly used in the running game, recording double-digit carries only twice in nine games. He didn’t log a carry in the Bears’ offensively challenged 17-3 win over the Panthers on Oct. 22 in which Trubisky threw the ball just seven times and Loggains called 11 passing plays.
Does Fox want to see more of Cohen involved in the offense?