Joniak's Journal: Tarik Cohen Is Raring To Go

"I want to make my own name," Cohen says.

Jeff Joniak
August 23, 2018 - 6:21 pm
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(WBBM Newsradio) The Bears continued work Thursday ahead of a matchup against the Chiefs at Soldier Field on Saturday.

First impression

Tarik Cohen’s engine is ready to go. A fidgety utility weapon, Cohenis can't wait to cut it loose. 

"I get on my coaches all the time," Cohen said. "I want to be in the game more. This is the game the starters should get a lot more burn, a lot more play time to really get comfortable."

Any time the ball is in Cohen’s hands, he's comfortable, whether he's getting it on the ground or through the air. Cohen is also comfortable with calling himself a "utility running back." He's the most versatile weapon on the Bears' offense, not unlike Tyreek Hill in Kansas City, whom Cohen compares favorably to in football intelligence, speed and game-breaking ability.  

"I embrace that because he’s a great player," Cohen said. "You know he made the top 100 this year. The things he did last year was amazing. I see it all the time watching the film, learning our plays. I do want to be my own man. I want to make my own name so for somebody to come (after) me and then they compare him to me."

Hill is a wide receiver on the Chiefs' depth chart. Cohen is a running back on the Bears' depth chart. They both do both jobs and then some. Hill already has 20 touchdowns in two-year career, while Cohen took a big first step with four combined touchdowns and one throwing touchdown last season. 

You can bet on Cohen scoring a lot more touchdowns this season.  

Second thought

Just getting outside linebacker Aaron Lynch to the regular season seems to be the plan at this point for the Bears. After aggravating an offseason hamstring injury in the first practice of training camp, Lynch has been in rehab mode since. He's been visible at practice but working with the training staff on the stationary bike and recently getting in some running. 

At the same time, we hear that Lynch is close to returning to good health.

"When you are going to play possibly 70 plays in that first game, you got to be in football shape," coach Matt Nagy said. "We have a good plan for conditioning him and doing some things. You want to be able to push guys too and make sure they are pushing themselves and you’re not just kind of letting them slide. He hasn’t done that, and I don’t think we’ve done that."

Lynch’s pass rush skill set is significant, as his knowledge and comfort in coordinator Vic Fangio’s defense. His experience in it in San Francisco when Fangio ran the 49ers defense is why Lynch is a Bear.  That should ease his transition back into the unit.

Third degree

I love the attitude of third-year tight end Ben Braunecker, who was undrafted out of Harvard and is getting more targeted throws and snaps in the last two weeks due to the absence of Dion Sims (concussion) and Adam Shaheen (foot sprain). Braunecker is making the most of those opportunities.

"You see what Nagy did with (Travis) Kelce in Kansas City," Braunecker said. "I think it really opens things up in the middle for big, athletic, tight ends to run down the seam. There are a lot of quarterback reads where tight end is No. 1 in the progression. It’s an extremely tight end-friendly offense, and it’s awesome."

Nagy directed the Chiefs offense last season, while Doug Pederson did the same for the Eagles. Both are disciples of Andy Reid. Kansas City and Philadelphia tight ends each caught a combined 110 passes in 2017, tied for most in the league, while Kelce was targeted a league-high 122 times, which also made him the Chiefs’ top target in the passing game. 

These Bears may replicate similar numbers.

Braunecker’s value expands with his ability and desire to be a significant piece to the special teams puzzle.

"That’s the doorway to a job in the NFL," he said. "You do what you have to do. I’ve actually really grown fond of special teams in the NFL.  Philosophically, offense is controlling the chaos of the game to try to get productivity down the field. Special teams is more freeing and relaxing and more like football is fun again."

Count Braunecker as the first player who has ever told me special teams is "relaxing."  You can hear more from Braunecker in WBBM’s Bears Radio pregame show starting at 11 a.m. Saturday on Newsradio 780 and 105.9 FM. 

Fourth-and-short

Rookie linebacker Roquan Smith did a little more intense work Thursday in individual footwork and technique drills as he continues to overcome tightness in his left hamstring. He finished practice on the stationary bike. 

Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play announcer for the Bears broadcasts on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJoniak.