Skip to main content

What Chicago Bears Must Do to Replace Tarik Cohen

Tarik Cohen's torn ACL leaves the Bears in need of a back who can catch passes and also a punt returner.

Losing Tarik Cohen removes multiple dimensions from the Bears roster and will test coach Matt Nagy's creativity.

The injury to Cohen suffered in the fourth quarter of a 30-26 win over Atlanta is a torn right anterior cruciate ligament according to Nagy. He suffered it on a fair catch, of all things.

"So, that will be a big blow to us there with that, which is unfortunate," Nagy said. "So proud of that kid and he's been really growing so that part (of Sunday) you don't like."

Cohen had called fair catch with 9 1/2 minutes to play at the Bears 38 but Brian Hill came in low from the right of Cohen after he had the ball in his hand and hit him. Officials flagged Hill for the hit.

The ball was fumbled after the hit but the Bears retained possession. Then officials picked up the penalty flag and said Hill had been blocked into Cohen but replay does not show this. Hill was engaged but pulled away several yards away from Cohen and then went to the turf as he pulled away and hit Cohen.

A week after Cohen signed a contract extension, his season ended and it had teammates feeling bad for him.

"I love the guy, he's an important person on this team," defensive end Akiem Hicks said. "Someone I have a lot of respect for, somebody that is dedicated to this team and that wants to be the best at what he does.

"He's all you can ask for in a teammate. He's the energy when we need it, he's the focus when you want it, he's just our guy."

Cohen's day ended with two runs for 21 yards and three receptions for 20 yards.

The loss is obvious in the backfield. Cohen had turned it around after a 2019 when his rushing attempts and average declined greatly. He averaged only 3.3 yards a carry then.

The Bears had put Cohen in the backfield more this year and it helped immensely, but now they have lost their third-down back. It could require them to promote former Oregon State running back Artavis Pierce to the 53-man roster or use Ryan Nall more on offense.

However, Nall doesn't bring the same type of help to the offense. Pierce might be a better fit because coaches like his quickness and speed.

Other options could be using Cordarrelle Patterson more in the backfield than they have in the first few games and simply leaning more on David Montgomery as a receiver out of the backfield and to make more carries.

The offense could be changing anyway with Mitchell Trubisky seemingly headed to the bench now and Nick Foles starting, unless Nagy does an unfathomable thing and keeps Trubisky as starter.

There will be less movement outside the pocket, and probably less starting from under center but more shotgun. Foles has been better through his career out of the shotgun than under center.

This would mean the use of the running backs would be different in the passing attack, and having Montgomery in the backfield more because of his blocking ability is important. The Bears rarely use Montgomery enough, anyway. 

The other headache this causes for the Bears is on punt return.

They put Anthony Miller at the position after Cohen's injury. Miller called a fair catch on one chance but also had a 6-yard return on his final chance, which was big because he was hit late by Keith Smith and the Bears got what turned into a 21-yard return to set them up at Atlanta's 44 to start the winning drive.

The Bears would need to decide whether they want to risk their No. 2 receiver on punt return duties, after he's already had two surgeries to shoulders. One of those surgeries occurred due to an injury last December against Minnesota suffered on a return.

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven