When the Philadelphia Eagles take on the Chicago Bears on Sunday afternoon in the second NFC Wild Card Game, all eyes will be on the Bears’ top-tier defense.
However, the Eagles’ defense — which has played great down the stretch — will be under the microscope too, as they have the tough task of containing Chicago’s dynamic second-year running back Tarik Cohen.
Over the last few weeks, Philly’s misfit defense has done an excellent job creating turnovers and slowing down the opposing teams’ running game. They held LA Rams star Todd Gurley to 124 total yards (48 rushing) and two touchdowns in Week 15, Redskins veteran Adrian Peterson to zero yards in Week 17 and 98 rushing yards in Week 13 and Giants stud rookie Saquon Barkley to 142 total yards in Week 12.
But unlike Peterson and Gurley to a lesser extent, Cohen can absolutely kill your defense in the receiving game and is a matchup nightmare.
This season, the former North Carolina A&T standout had a career year across the board with 444 rushing yards on 99 carries and three touchdowns, along with 725 receiving yards on 71 receptions (91 targets) and five touchdowns.
Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz spoke about the various ways Chicago uses Cohen in their offense on Tuesday.
“I mean like literally, they use him all over the place. 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,” Schwartz said.
“He’s a really important part of their offense. We saw that a little bit last year. We knew how talented he was last year. He’s in the same vein this year, and they’re finding ways to get him the ball.”
In last year’s contest at Lincoln Financial Field, Cohen was not much of a factor as the Eagles’ defense held him to minus-four rushing yards and eight receiving yards. However, do not expect the same type of output this time around as the young running back has a head coach in Matt Nagy, who knows how to put his best players in good situations.
The last time the Eagles faced a dynamic running back like Cohen was Alvin Kamara of the New Orleans Saints in Week 11. Kamara did not do much in the receiving game; despite scoring a touchdown but was a factor running the ball with 71 yards on 13 carries.
The Eagles must make sure that they either have a safety or cornerback lined up on Cohen every time he splits out as a wide receiver. You do not want him matched up against linebackers Jordan Hicks or Nigel Bradham because of his speed and quickness.
Nevertheless, it should be interesting to see the chess game played between Schwartz and Nagy on Sunday afternoon. Not only does the Eagles’ defense have to contend with a mobile quarterback in Mitchell Trubisky but they will have to account for “The Human Joystick” also known as Cohen.