In years past, Bears fans have been critical of Tarik Cohen's running style. As a rookie, he was a shifty, change-of-pace back who served as an excellent complement to Jordan Howard. In his second year, he seemed to take a step back and run east and west more frequently instead of running north and south. To many Bears fans, he became just a gadget player.
Yes, we have the receipts. No matter what you want to say about Cohen and how the Bears could have had other players, Cohen's presence is severely missed. Let's dig into why that's the case.
Complements in the Run Game
In today's NFL, almost every good team has two quality running backs. This season, the two-headed monster of David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen was getting the job done, as the numbers indicated.
In the first three weeks of the season when both backs were healthy, the Bears rushed for over 130 yards as a team in each of those games. In today's NFL, that is enough to be very successful on offense.
After Cohen's injury, the Bears have failed to rush for more than 63 yards as a team in Weeks 4-7. The Bears have been embarrassingly bad running the ball without Cohen.
Yes, one could argue that the loss of James Daniels has also affected the run game, which it has, but when Cohen is involved in the game plan, the Bears are astronomically better at running the football.
Game Planning Nightmares
Kyle Long said it best on Barstool's Red Line Radio, explaining Tarik Cohen's importance to the Bears' offensive success.
Long spent three seasons playing with Cohen and saw the weapon that he was when teams were scheming against the Bears' offense. Cohen's absence has created a one-dimensional backfield. Teams know that David Montgomery alone can't get the job done, and Cordarrelle Patterson is not enough of a weapon out of the backfield to make teams fear him.
Defenses know that the Bears have to run the ball with just Montgomery. This has allowed defenses to load the box and force Nick Foles to win the game with his arm. He has shown some ability to do that this season, but between Matt Nagy's play-calling and Foles' inability to successfully run the system due to a variety of reasons, Foles has not put on his Super Man cape and won the Bears every game they could have.
At the end of the day, you can dislike Cohen's playing style, but you cannot undersell his value to the Bears. Whether it be through the screen game, the receiving game, the rushing game, or the return game, Cohen always has an ability to turn nothing into something and ignite big plays on this offense. Without him, the offense is brutally easy to scheme against.
The loss of Cohen this season is hurting the Bears. There is hope that Lamar Miller is elevated from the practice squad to help fill the void left by Cohen. However, until results show that it's possible, the Bears are in a bad spot without Cohen. Emory Hunt said it best: