Tarik Cohen sparked a listless Bears offense Thursday night, showing that not only does he belong at the NFL level, but he can make an immediate impact in his rookie year.
Cohen notched the Bears’ first first down of their preseason opener against the Denver Broncos, following an eight-yard run with an 11-yard scamper late in the first quarter. He carried the ball on the first four plays of the Bears’ 12-play, 53-yard drive — the best engineered by Mike Glennon — and added runs of eight and 12 yards on it, too.
“It was lightning in a bottle,” left tackle Charles Leno Jr. said. “He was quick, agile, really hard to tackle, really hard to see out there for the defenders — good for us. Just a really good player. He provided some good help for us on the offense.”
It was a continuation of what we’ve seen from Cohen during practice in Bourbonnais, and answered one of the biggest questions about the 5-foot-6, 181 pound running back’s game: Can he hold up against NFL competition?
Cohen gained two yards on his first carry of the game, which represented the first time he was hit by an opposing NFL defender in his life. He said nothing felt different after that hit.
“It’s like, here we go again,” Cohen said. “Back at it. Let’s continue to do what I’ve been doing.”
Victor Cruz was on the sidelines when Cohen jogged off the field after that first hit and saw how amped up he was after it.
“Any time you see him, man, he’s always jumping up and down or laughing or smiling or joking,” Cruz said. “He’s always upbeat. So his first little bit of contact, he was excited for it, he was waiting for it, I’m sure. And now he knows what it feels like to get hit in the NFL.”
As with everything that happened Thursday night — the good of Mitch Trubisky, the bad of Mike Glennon — the Bears aren’t overreacting. But Cohen not injected some positivity into the Bears’ offense, he did it with the first-team, which may be the strongest indication of how coaches view the fourth-round pick.
“I like to think of myself as, like, a spark plug,” Cohen said. “So wherever the offense’s at, if we’re struggling, I want to come in and get everybody motivated, have that one spark play that might spark somebody else to have a big play also. When I make a big play, I’m thinking if it’s not a touchdown, then I know somebody else on the team is going to score a touchdown.”