Much has been made about Tarik Cohen’s struggles this season, but wading into the Football Reference waters really hammers the point home.
Cohen was arguably the most dynamic player on last year’s offense, making the Pro Bowl by averaging over 10 yards per reception and catching a team-high 71 balls. He also put up over 4 yards per carry on the ground and was named an All-Pro punt returner.
6 months later, and Cohen’s flashiest moment of the year is still probably when he showed up to the first day of training camp in a Slingshot. His production on the field has plummeted: halfway through his third NFL season he’s averaging career-lows in Yards Per Reception (5.7), Yards Per Target (3.8), and Scrimmage Yards Per Touch (4.3).
Just to add salt to the wound, he's only gotten into the end zone once this year, after finishing last season with eight touchdowns. No one outside of Allen Robinson has played particularly well at any point in the season, but the effect that Cohen’s disappearance has on the offense isn’t hard to find on tape.
“His numbers are down and I’m aware of that,” Matt Nagy said on Monday afternoon. He’s a playmaker and we need to do a better job of getting him the ball and doing different things with him.
“I think like anything with any sport, when you’re in a position where there’s a lull in play, sometimes then when you get a chance to make a play you overdo it and you want to make something happen and it ends up backfiring on you.”
Per Football Focus’ grades, Sunday was not only Cohen’s worst game of the season (44.1), but of his entire career. His tendency to run sideline-to-sideline at times has been a source of frustration with Bears fans on social media (though what aren’t Bears fans unhappy with right now).
Nagy admitted on Monday that he’d like to see the running back turn it up field a bit more often, but still feels there’s plenty of value in how Cohen stretches the field laterally. When the book on the Bears is to make Trubisky beat you as a traditional QB, it's easy to load up the box and plug off any and all running lanes.
“The north-south stuff is good, but the horizontal stuff is good too because it stretches out these defensive ends,” he said. “You’ll see when you look at the tape, we were going into all the I-formation stuff, there’s a lot of times where there’s nine guys or eight guys in the box depending on the formation.
“That’s hard to run against no matter who you are or what you got back there. You can scheme all you want but to do that, against that, is difficult – and that’s why you saw some of the shots we took downfield with protection.”