New special teams coordinator Chris Tabor officially addressed the media at Halas Hall Thursday. Tabor returns to the Chicago Bears organization for a second time, as he was an assistant from 2008-2010 under Lovie Smith. He had spent 2011-2017 as the special teams coordinator for the Cleveland Browns.
During his reign in Cleveland, his special team units were top-ten in kickoff return yards (7,963) with four punt returns for touchdowns and the ninth-least return yards allowed. While the Browns have not been a good team overall, their special teams units have not failed them (outside the infamous “kick-six”).
Tabor had high praise for Tarik Cohen, who is looking forward to working with him. Calling him a “young [Darren] Sproles”, he expressed how valuable his talents are to the team. He likes the risks he takes and admitted he was nervous facing him on Christmas Eve as a Browns coach. Cohen is an exciting asset to have, considering the tools he has, and with this staff, he will be even more valuable.
Last year, Cohen was the primary returner. He had 272 yards and a touchdown on punt returns and 583 yards on kickoff returns. Note that he could have had more touchdowns and yards last year, but penalties took much of his production away. With an elite coach like Tabor, there is a reason to be optimistic that the unit will be more disciplined and Cohen will develop more as a returner.
The Bears have not had a really outstanding return man on special teams since the great Devin Hester. While nobody will probably come close to that record, Cohen could potentially be the best one they have had since him. His special teams’ highlight last season had to be the punt-return for a touchdown against the 49ers at Soldier Field. While being chased backward, Cohen made some incredible cuts around defenders and used his speed and agility to burst through them. Just think about what he can do if his special teams unit commits fewer penalties while blocking and tackling better.
There were definitely moments last year when Cohen took costly risks, but he was a rookie. The overall excitement of Cohen that was generated last season in his first year only makes his future even more bright. He can develop with good coaching and be utilized more to his abilities, and not go through games when he does not get targeted for anything at all. Expect him and Jordan Howard to be a bit more balanced under Matt Nagy’s playcalling. Howard will still be the number one back, but hopefully, there are a few more carries going over to Cohen.
The Bears have a great weapon, they need to use it in every way possible.