Tarik Cohen and Taylor Gabriel together? ‘The speed kills mantra, that’s a fact’
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Running back Tarik Cohen and receiver Taylor Gabriel have spent all offseason yapping at each other about who is faster. Gabriel, nicknamed ‘‘Turbo,’’ ran 24 mph during a Bears practice in organized team activities. Cohen insisted he wasn’t intimidated.
They never settled their dispute.
‘‘We haven’t raced,’’ Gabriel, whom the Bears signed to four-year, $26 million deal in March, said Thursday. ‘‘But on film, I believe I’m for sure, definitely, 100 percent faster than him.’’
Cohen, whom the Bears figure to split wide, said they’ll just measure production instead.
‘‘We’ll probably just go off of yards,’’ he said. ‘‘Whoever’s the fastest will probably get the most yards.’’
They’ll get their chances.
Coach Matt Nagy will unveil his offense to the NFL world Sunday against the Packers. It won’t resemble the vanilla version he ran in the preseason, when Cohen and Gabriel each caught one pass for 10 yards. He has hidden both from game film — and not just because Gabriel was dealing with a nagging foot injury.
Cohen coyly said he didn’t know exactly what percentage of Nagy’s offense filtered out in the preseason because he hasn’t introduced all of it to his players yet. But Nagy repeatedly has vowed this offseason that quarterback Mitch Trubisky will take chances deep down the field. Offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, who traded in speed and tempo as the coach at Oregon, confirmed as much Thursday.
‘‘The ‘speed kills’ mantra, that’s a fact,’’ Helfrich said. ‘‘The first thing on every defensive back’s mind when they’re in a one-on-one situation or a matchup like that is, ‘Don’t get beat deep.’ So if you can start with that threat when a guy’s in his stance, everything else opens up.
‘‘And that helps [running back] Jordan Howard or whoever else or another route that’s complementary to that guy.’’
Cohen and Gabriel have been unselfish, Helfrich said. They’re happy to run clearing routes to get a teammate open underneath.
‘‘It just gives a different element,’’ Gabriel said. ‘‘Playmaking ability. Being able to make a play anywhere on the field. And to not just have one but two [such playmakers], that brings a different element to the offense.’’
Cohen is 5-6 and 181 pounds and Gabriel 5-8 and 165 pounds. The Bears will work to get both matched up against linebackers or safeties. Gabriel can run fly sweeps, too, and Cohen will take traditional handoffs.
Cohen caught 53 passes for 353 yards and ran 87 times for 370 yards last season.
‘‘For us, it’s fun,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘That part is fun because you get to try to create mismatches and do different things. The defense will have answers; that’s no secret. So we just put some stuff together, and whether it’s them or other guys, we feel like we’re in a good spot with our personnel.’’
When the two weren’t debating their speed, they coached each other up. Gabriel, who caught 35 passes for 579 yards and six touchdowns in the Falcons’ NFC title season in 2016, critiques Cohen’s routes, saying — pejoratively — that he looks like a running back when he runs them. Cohen harps on Gabriel about his conditioning, knowing he likely will play more than the 34 offensive snaps a game he logged last season with the Falcons.
‘‘It’s competitive,’’ Gabriel said. ‘‘I’m glad that he’s here. I feel he’s like a little brother to me.’’
Or, if we’re being literal, two little brothers.
On Sunday, they’ll show exactly what they can do.
‘‘It’s like taking that first test of class,’’ Cohen said. ‘‘Everyone wants to see how we’re going to do. Even the outside world wants to see how we’re going to do.’’