Bears May Have Found Tarik Cohen Replacement

Trestan Ebner

Getty New Bears RB Trestan Ebner is a threat in both the passing game and on special teams.

Running back Tarik Cohen had a promising start to his career with the Chicago Bears.

A fourth-round pick (119th overall) for the Bears in 2017 out of North Carolina A&T, Cohen racked up 723 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns in 16 games as a rookie, also establishing himself as a dynamic return man, returning both kickoffs (26 returns for 22.4 yards per return) and punts (29 returns, 9.4 yards per return and a TD).

Cohen was named a first-team All-Pro the following season as a punt returner, also getting named to the Pro Bowl. He led the NFL in punt return yardage that year (411 total yards) and also became a key cog in the offense, particularly in the passing game. He finished his 2018 season with 1,169 total yards from scrimmage (444 rushing, 725 receiving), catching five touchdown passes while rushing for three.

He had a bit of a down season in 2019, but it was the torn ACL Week 3 of his 2020 campaign that changed his path. After playing in 16 games in each of his first three seasons, the 5-foot-6, 191-pound running back has played in just three contests in the two years since. The team’s new regime, led by general manager Ryan Poles, released Cohen earlier in the spring, citing a failed physical as the primary reason.

When the Bears selected Baylor running back Trestan Ebner at No. 203 in Round 6, they may have found a player who could eventually grow into a suitable replacement for Cohen both on offense and special teams.

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Ebner, Like Cohen, Has Return Skills, Is Excellent Catching the Ball

Ebner played in 58 games for Baylor, netting 1,690 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on 343 carries, and he was a legit threat in the passing game, catching 127 passes for 1,515 yards (11.9 yards per catch) and 11 scores in that span. Like Cohen, he’s also an excellent return specialist. He returned 47 kicks for 25.3 yards, scoring three touchdowns while also returning 28 punts (6.8 yards per return) and a score at Baylor.

It may be his receiving skills that help him eke out a spot on the team’s 53-man roster as a rookie, though.

“That’s his calling card and his best value, honestly,” Bears scout Breck Ackley said of Ebner, via Adam Jahns of The Athletic. “In high school he played a little bit of receiver, played some quarterback, kind of moved around, but that’s the first thing that stands out when you watch him. The guy runs routes like a receiver, he catches the ball naturally.”

He’s also quite good at breaking tackles:

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Ebner’s Path Won’t Be Easy

Bears insider Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune thinks that while it may not be easy for the young running back to see the playing field at first, Ebner has a lot to offer.

“Ebner is going to have his work cut out to earn playing time, but he could add another element (along with speed) to the offense. Versatility and speed are something every team seeks,” Biggs wrote on April 30.

The 5-foot-11, 215-pound Ebner is quite a bit larger than Cohen — and he’s almost as fast. While Cohen ran a 4.42 40-yard dash at the 2017 scouting combine, Ebner ran a 4.43-second 40 this year. He’ll sit on the depth chart behind David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert, but Ebner could compete with free agent signing Darrynton Evans for playing time next season.

If he makes the most of his opportunities, Ebner could be a more powerful — yet equally dynamic — version of Cohen.

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