Discipline is the Key to Dealing with the Bears’ Tarik Cohen
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - The biggest problem for the Eagles on Sunday in Chicago may reside in the smallest package.
The top playmaker for the Bears on the offensive side of the football is unquestionably the versatile Tarik Cohen, a Darren Sproles-sized running back at 5-foot-6 and 180 pounds who is among the most versatile players in the NFL.
Cohen does it all for Matt Nagy in Chicago as the most effective back on the ground (444 yards on 99 carries) and the top receiver (71 catches for 725 yards). Add in his ability as a punt returner (411 yards on 33 returns) and you see the impact that the North Carolina A&T product had has on the Bears' 12-4 NFC North-winning campaign.
"I mean, like literally they use him all over the place," Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said earlier this week. "Line him up in the backfield, line him up as a wide receiver, wide receiver motion into the backfield, in the backfield motion out, jet sweep, inside runs, outside runs, deep passes, short passes. He's a really important part of their offense."
The pre-snap motion, which Eagles' offensive coordinator Mike Groh called eyewash, is the most challenging part of what Nagy does with Cohen, creating a stressful time for defenders when it comes to communication and understanding the assignment.
"They're not doing anything unique," Schwartz claimed when discussing Nagy's pre-snap shenanigans. "They just have really good players doing it and they do a nice job in their scheme of putting you in positions that you have to communicate, and you also have to watch your keys. You can't get distracted by other things."
Doug Pederson echoed that when discussing Cohen on Friday.
"You can move him around, bring him out of the backfield, put him in unique formations," the Eagles head coach said. "Jet motion him, jet sweep him. Create some matchups with linebackers in the passing game so it can be a little bit of a challenge for a D-coordinator to plan for something like that and from our standpoint you just gotta remain disciplined."
Pederson and his coaching staff use a phrase with their defenders: "Be where your feet are."
"Trust the scheme, trust your eyes, trust your instincts," he explained. "Make sure you're there when you're supposed to be there and then, of course, you've got to tackle and get him on the ground."
973espn.com Wild Card Prediction: Eagles 20, Bears 14
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen