Tarik Cohen is learning to become a more patient — and better — back
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A better block from tight end Dion Sims would have helped Bears rookie running back Tarik Cohen on his reverse against the Vikings, but he still had an opening.
Instead, Cohen decided to dance in the backfield.
The result was a four-yard loss on a second-down play from the Vikings’ 39 in the first quarter. It hurt a potential scoring opportunity by putting rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky in a third-and-12 situation and allowed the Vikings to attack Trubisky with a safety blitz.
‘‘We’re just going to keep telling [Cohen] to trust the play [and] let the play come to you,’’ offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. ‘‘Don’t try to create the touchdown every time.’’
Like Trubisky, Cohen is a rookie who needs real-game experiences. Trubisky has to understand what throws he can and can’t make; Cohen has to recognize when it’s acceptable to dance.
As expected, opposing defenses have keyed on Cohen after his early success. He must be contained — and he has been. Against the Packers and Vikings, Cohen totaled 37 yards on 12 carries.
‘‘People are doing things to not let him be as big a factor, whether it’s the style of run or even the matchups,’’ coach John Fox said. ‘‘People are playing nickel defenses against him. Now it’s a matter of adjusting. He’ll do that. We’ll do that.’’
Coaches are reminding Cohen to be patient but decisive. Being patient isn’t easy for a player as quick as Cohen, but plays can require time to develop. He can learn from watching Jordan Howard, who relies more on his vision and patience than on his speed.
‘‘You’ve got to have [patience],’’ Cohen said Thursday. ‘‘You’ve got to trust the [offensive] line, basically, and trust the offense because later on in the play, when everybody gets to do their job, that’s really when the big plays are going to happen.
‘‘I wouldn’t say it’s tough, but it’s something I’ve got to get in a habit of, coming from a smaller school [North Carolina A&T] where I was making the plays as soon as I touched the ball. I feel like I can do that. It’s just being confident in the offense.’’
In the fourth quarter against the Vikings, Cohen stopped following fullback Michael Burton and guard Kyle Long on a run to their left and missed a gaping hole that developed.
Instead, he tried to cut back. Defensive tackle Tom Johnson grabbed Cohen by his facemask in the backfield, but Johnson also was held by guard Josh Sitton.
Seeing that play on film, Cohen thought he missed a big play by trying to make one.
‘‘You just see the opportunity,’’ Cohen said.
Cohen’s negative run on the reverse is an example of when he needs to be more decisive. Despite Sims’ failed block on linebacker Anthony Barr, Cohen made Barr miss. He had room to run to his right — the original direction of the reverse — but cut back inside, which allowed Barr to recover and tackle him for a loss.
‘‘You’ve got to know that every play can’t be a big play,’’ Howard said. ‘‘Sometimes you’ve just got to take what you can get.’’
The same is true for Cohen on his punt returns. Special-teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers pointed to Cohen’s three-yard return in the second quarter against the Vikings, where ‘‘he goes backwards and spins.’’
‘‘But that’s Tarik’s creativity,’’ Rodgers said. ‘‘He’s got ultimate confidence about his ability in the open field.’’
The Bears have it, too. It’s just a matter of Cohen learning that big plays can happen in different ways.
‘‘He always responds,’’ Howard said. ‘‘He said, ‘I’m due for a big play.’ ’’
Follow me on Twitter @adamjahns.