The Chicago Bears ultimately came up short against the Atlanta Falcons this week, falling in a 23-17 battle. However, there were a few bright spots to take out of the loss. Among them was the performance of rookie running back Tarik Cohen.
The Human Joystick finished the game with 66 rushing yards on only five carries. He also led the Bears in both receptions and receiving yards with eight and 47, respectively. During the course of the game, he displayed superb athleticism and ball-carrier vision, which can both be summed up perfectly with this bold run that turned into a big gain.
Tarik Cohen is not a human being. #Bears pic.twitter.com/yIvYzJP6JY— Bears History (@ChiBearsHistory) September 10, 2017
He also proved to be a lot more durable than most fans and analysts believed he was. He took a handful of nasty hits, but he was seemingly unaffected by each one.
Although one could argue that Cohen was overused this week, his performance shows that the Bears understand how valuable he can be to their offense.
Although Cohen had a very impressive game on Sunday, he wasn’t the rookie who played the most. That distinction goes to Eddie Jackson, who, according to Pro Football Reference, was on the field for all 59 defensive plays.
The safety wasn’t overly impressive; he ended up with three tackles and didn’t make any big plays in the secondary. However, he didn’t make any bad plays, either.
His performance was slightly underwhelming, considering the amount of hype he had heading into the season, but the fact that the Bears’ coaching staff kept him out on the field is telling of how much they trust him.
None of the other rookies made much of an impact against the Falcons. Mitch Trubisky didn’t play a down, nor did Jordan Morgan, who is currently on injured reserve. Adam Shaheen was only on the field for eight plays on offense, but his role in the offense may increase with Kevin White out for the year. “Baby Gronk” did see the field a lot on special teams, though: he was on the field for roughly 65 percent of special teams snaps.
Running back Taquan Mizzell was the only undrafted free agent from this season to make the team, and he didn’t play a single down this week. With the aforementioned injury to White, though, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Tanner Gentry join him as a fellow undrafted rookie on the roster some time soon.
Because this year’s rookie class isn’t all that big (and most of them aren’t expected to make a big immediate impact), we will also be breaking down how the second-year players on the roster did.
Leonard Floyd didn’t have the best of performances rushing the passer on Sunday. The 2016 first-round pick only had one quarterback hurry on 24 pass-rushing snaps, according to Lorin Cox of The Bears Wire. However, he did finish the game with three tackles and a pass deflection in coverage. Given that none of the other outside linebackers on the Bears are standouts athletically, Vic Fangio may have him drop back in coverage a handful of times per game.
Jordan Howard also had a slightly underwhelming game, as well. The Indiana alum ended up with 52 yards on 13 carries - one of those resulting in a touchdown - which averages out to exactly four yards per carry. He added 14 more yards on three catches. He could have added to that total, had he not dropped a key pass from Mike Glennon.
Howard should have had it but oh well. #Bears gained respect and have something to build on pic.twitter.com/aFsuNdv1RU— Bears Bonanza (@BearsBonanza) September 10, 2017
One could argue that Glennon should’ve thrown earlier, given that Howard was open well before the ball was released. It is disappointing, though, that Howard was unable to make the catch.
Regardless of who’s to blame for the unfortunate failed play, the running back proved that, with Cohen, he makes up a backfield duo that has potential to be one of the league’s best. Just watch this montage of the best runs from the two.
#Bears have the best 1-2 punch in the league. pic.twitter.com/QUjyNN7tnw— Flo Ottis (@flo_ottis) September 11, 2017
Cody Whitehair, whom many believed to be a possible breakout star this year, didn’t start off on the right foot. After a season which only saw him get five penalties, he finished with two after Sunday, as our own Lester A. Wiltfong Jr. pointed out. He also allowed one hit, one hurry and had one bad snap which resulted in a fumble. The Kansas State product has a lot of time to turn things around, though.
None of the other sophomores made a notable impact in Week 1. Cre’Von LeBlanc didn’t play a single down on defense, and finished the game with one tackle on special teams. Jonathan Bullard failed to make an impact in the 21 defensive snaps he saw. Deon Bush played a bit on special teams, but he didn’t play a single down on defense.
Roy Robertson-Harris didn’t record anything in the stat book, but he did play a big role in one of Akiem Hicks’ sacks. You can see a bit more of what he did this Sunday in this highlight reel created by agent Brandon M. Taylor.
Our guy @ChicagoBears DE @iam_robharris showed a little bit of everything today in his first NFL regular season game #BearDown #ATFam pic.twitter.com/SW6DaBoacZ— Brandon M. Taylor (@agent_bt) September 11, 2017