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Bears spending offseason trying to restore Tarik’s mystique

When running back Tarik Cohen caught 79 passes for a mere 5.77 yards per reception last season, he set a record for futility among high-volume receivers.

Chicago Bears v Minnesota Vikings
Bears running back Tarik Cohen is tackled by the Vikings in December.

No one in NFL history has done less with more.

When Bears running back Tarik Cohen caught 79 passes for a mere 5.77 yards per reception last season, he set a record for futility among high-volume receivers. The only man to catch more than 70 passes and average fewer yards, Reggie Bush, had 73 receptions in 2007.

No one, then, has caught so many passes and gained so few yards.

The Bears are spending their offseason trying to restore the Tarik mystique of the previous two seasons. The answer lies in a combination of performance, preparation and play-calling.

Cohen needs to hang on to the ball. Only three players last season dropped more passes than his nine, according to Fox Sports. In 2018, he had one drop.

Cohen said Thursday his body deteriorated more — and faster — toward the end of the season. His hips were tight and, because of that, his lower back hurt.

‘‘I’ve been doing yoga now, stretching more often and just like the small training room — in-house things you do to keep your body durable,’’ he said. ‘‘And to keep the wear-and-tear of the season off of you longer.’’

In his first two seasons, Cohen said, he had veteran Benny Cunningham to remind him to take care of his body. Last season, Cunningham was gone.

‘‘I really slacked on that,’’ Cohen said. ‘‘I always had older guys that would keep me on that, keep me in line.’’

Entering his fourth season, Cohen knows he shouldn’t need to be nagged by vets. He vowed to be a leader this season — and to be the one nagging younger players to get to treatment.

The more complicated question is the Bears’ play-calling.

Cohen averaged 6.2 rushes per game and 4.5 yards per carry in 2018 — coach Matt Nagy’s first season — and four rushes per game and 3.3 yards per carry in 2019. Even more amazing: He caught 71 passes for an average of 10.2 yards in 2018 and 79 passes for a little more than half that in 2019.

‘‘For him, you look at numbers right away,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘You look at our offensive numbers right away, and there are a lot of things. . . . You could look across the board at every position and say we struggled.

‘‘We don’t care anymore about 2019. We don’t care about 2018.’’

Cohen, however, said he suspects the Bears do.

‘‘I feel like we’ll probably go back to the things we were doing in 2018,’’ he said. ‘‘I feel like we’re just going to simplify things. I feel like, at times, we just made things too hard on ourselves and didn’t have people guessing. I feel like we were kind of just showing our cards a little bit.’’

That predictability, he said, should change because of the team’s new staff. Nagy still will call plays, but he added offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo and offensive line coach Juan Castillo to his brain trust.

Nagy is a momentum play-caller. His creativity emerged when things were going well in 2018, but the Bears’ offense was bad and boring last season. Cohen, more than any player on the team, benefits when his coach plays mad scientist.

Linebackers typically cover Cohen when he lines up in the backfield, but cornerbacks — and the occasional safety — assume coverage when he lines up at receiver. Each team, however, devises its own game plan for him. It’s the coaching staff’s job to counter it in real time.

‘‘[I’m] already seeing the things [Lazor] has planned for us,’’ Cohen said. ‘‘It’s going to be hard to tell who’s getting the ball and when or how they’re getting the ball, too.’’

Cohen knows what’s at stake: He will be eligible for free agency after the season.

‘‘I feel like I can’t put any pressure on nobody else,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s all on me.’’