Instant impact: Bears see Adam Shaheen, Tarik Cohen as Day 1 players
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An offseason program spent dealing with everything rookie tight end Adam Shaheen can do for the Bears’ offense led inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman to reach the same conclusion about him the front office has.
‘‘You see him out here catching fade balls and wreaking havoc there on the inside,’’ Freeman said. ‘‘He has a lot of intangibles. He has a lot of upside. I think he’s going to be a pretty good guy.’’
Make that a pretty good player who will be on the field immediately this season. And Shaheen isn’t the only Bears rookie who can say that.
The Bears want rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky to learn behind new starter Mike Glennon, but Shaheen and running back Tarik Cohen won’t wait. The Bears see those two as having immediate roles in coordinator Dowell Loggains’ offense.
Shaheen, the Bears’ second-round pick, and Cohen, a fourth-round selection, worked with the starters during the offseason program.
Having faced both players in various scenarios, Freeman knows what the Bears have brewing in their rookies.
‘‘The tight end is a big body,’’ Freeman said with wide eyes. ‘‘He gets a little aggressive out there. He’s just a big body, and he’s a worker. He’s going to keep working and continue to work. He’s a great guy to have on offense.’’
‘‘No. 29, he’s like a human joystick out there,’’ Freeman said. ‘‘Just get him in the open field, and he’s dangerous — really dangerous.’’
Such threats would be welcome additions to a Bears offense that ranked 28th in scoring last season despite being 15th in total yards.
As a whole, the offense is short of sure things. Second-year running back Jordan Howard might be it. The offensive line is one of the NFL’s most underrated units, but guard Kyle Long still is recovering from surgery on his right ankle.
From Glennon to tight end Zach Miller to running backs Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey to receivers Cam Meredith, Kevin White and Markus Wheaton, the offense is full of players who must prove themselves to some degree. Receivers Kendall Wright, Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle must prove they still belong in the NFL.
In other words, there will be opportunities for Shaheen and Cohen to establish roles for themselves in Loggains’ offense.
It helps that their physical makeups and skills make them different from others at their positions. They are threats the Bears lacked the last two seasons.
Shaheen is one of the Bears’ largest players, an imposing 6-6, 278-pound force of nature whom evaluators compared to Patriots star Rob Gronkowski during the predraft process.
‘‘Gronk is pretty polished, so I’m not going to disrespect Gronk like that,’’ Freeman said. ‘‘But [Shaheen] has a lot of upside.’’
Langford’s speed might complement Howard’s power, but Cohen, who is 5-6 and 179 pounds, is a true scatback. His elusiveness and receiving skills set him apart from other backs. General manager Ryan Pace compared him to Darren Sproles.
‘‘I can come in and be a change-of-pace back, stretch the defense out,’’ Cohen said. ‘‘So when Howard gets in, he has those vertical lanes and can be the type of slasher back that he is.’’
Shaheen and Cohen don’t lack confidence, either. Both said they think they can play immediately. If anything, the belief they have in themselves grew during the offseason program because they shook off their small-school labels by making big plays against more experienced players.
‘‘You don’t know until you put the pads on, but that’s what I’m excited for,’’ said Shaheen, who thinks playing in a pro-style offense at Division II Ashland (Ohio) helped his transition. ‘‘I think I can really step my level up and be a great tight end in this league.’’
Cohen, who also is competing as a return man, said the Bears already are ‘‘drawing up some things’’ for him on offense.
‘‘I think I’m going to be finding a niche here in the offense,’’ said Cohen, who had a decorated career at North Carolina A&T. ‘‘I’m getting a hang of all the things they want me to do. And I feel like when I get that, I’ll be a factor in this offense.”
It’s only June, but Shaheen and Cohen seem to be on the right path. Their teammates have taken notice.
‘‘We’re excited about them both,’’ Glennon said. ‘‘Adam’s a big body, does a great job at the top of his routes. Tarik is really quick. [They’re] two guys we hope can have a really big impact this fall.’’
Quarterback Mitch Trubisky and tight end Adam Shaheen, the Bears’ first- and second-round picks, became fast friends after the team put them in the same hotel room for rookie minicamp. They stuck together for the offseason program, too.
‘‘[Trubisky is] one of those guys that not only can hang out and be great on the football field, but you can go back and go to dinner with, go see a movie [with],’’ Shaheen said. ‘‘[He can] turn it off for the evening.’’
But not before Shaheen does.
‘‘He’s a good roommate; he’s a great guy,’’ Shaheen said. ‘‘[But] he’s not there much. He’s here [at Halas Hall] till 9:30 p.m. or 10. By that time, I might be asleep. He’s in here learning. The quarterback’s got obviously the most to learn, and he’s in here pretty much the whole time.’’
While Trubisky’s work habits have rubbed off on Shaheen, Trubisky said his daily routine has improved because of Shaheen. Trubisky has learned to go to bed early, too.
‘‘He wants to learn; I want to learn,’’ Trubisky said. ‘‘We’ve just got to keep getting better and keep studying [the playbook]. This is our job, and we love what we do.’’
The wholesale changes at quarterback — releasing Jay Cutler, signing Mike Glennon and drafting Trubisky — haven’t changed the mindset of the defense.
It can’t and it shouldn’t, inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman said.
‘‘If my mindset was different from this year to next year, something would be wrong,’’ he said. ‘‘My mindset is whoever is on the offense, whoever is leading that side of the ball, we’re going to get him the rock. That’s our job. Get off the field, get him the rock, get him the ball and let him throw the ball.’’
But outside linebacker Willie Young said there is a ‘‘pretty different’’ atmosphere surrounding the Bears this season. He’s one of several players from the Phil Emery/Marc Trestman era still with the team.
‘‘[It’s] the sense of urgency,’’ Young said. ‘‘There’s a lot of different factors that come into play, but I would say [it’s] the atmosphere to win, to push ourselves beyond that point where we don’t think we can push any more.’’
The same farewell
John Fox said the final message he delivers to his team before breaking for the summer hasn’t changed much during his 16 seasons as an NFL head coach. Simply put, you want your players to work hard and to stay out of trouble.
‘‘After embarking on a lot of these over the years, you see a lot,’’ Fox said. ‘‘I don’t want to say you see everything, but hopefully they make good decisions. We’re trusting them that they’ll take good care of themselves and come back in good shape.’’
Follow me on Twitter @adamjahns.