Middle of the Road
It’s not often rookies get green lights in their first professional games, but that’s exactly what Cohen had in Week 1 against the Falcons.
On two of his three returns against Atlanta, the first-year player started with his feet firmly planted behind the 10-yard line.
Now, stat wise, all three returns were very similar. However, if you look closer, you see a trend in the rookie which the Bucs could exploit in their Week 2 match-up.
Looking at his first punt return:
Cohen fields the punt at the nine-yard line and immediately shifts inside to avoid a defender. Continuing upfield, he continues to move in towards the outside hashes as he searches for room.
Once he crosses the 20-yard line, he’s met by Falcons defenders who are able to bring him down, although his return is considered a success because he was able to bring the ball from inside the 10-yard line, to just outside the 20.
On to his second:
If this looks similar, it’s because it is. Again, Cohen starts from his nine-yard line.
Again, he moves inside to the near hash and tries to make his way to the opposite hashes as well.
Also a repeat performance, the running back successfully moves a punt from inside his own 10, to outside the 20, setting his offense up with better than desired field position for the Falcons defense.
On the final punt return of the game however, Atlanta punter Matt Bosher seems to have realized the rookie’s tendency to try and move the action to the middle of the field.
Not knowing exactly what Cohen is thinking, this seems to be a possibly unintentional attempt to give himself more room than the original punt did to operate. This would give him the ability to use his agility and short area burst with greater chance of success as defenders wouldn’t have the advantage of the sideline to work with.
In this final punt, Bosher pushes Cohen more than five-yards outside the 30-yard line paint. Despite this, the return man attempts to move inside originally before realizing there is a wall of defenders pursuing from the same angle.
More from The Pewter Plank
- Devin White posts cryptic message to Lavonte David on Twitter
- ESPN predicts surprising outcome to Devin White trade saga
- Updated Buccaneers depth chart after signing two players from rookie minicamp
- Todd Bowles sends clear message about Baker Mayfield’s role with Bucs
- The Athletic is wrong about Bucs one ‘must-watch’ game in 2023
He makes a quick cut back outside, and towards the sideline, where he finds a lane to run through and actually looks to have a possibility of a big return with just one defender to beat on the left side of the pursuit.
However, Cohen’s tendency to break inside takes over again, and before the running back can take advantage of the space provided, he takes one ill-timed step inside. The yellow line on the image above illustrates the potential angle Cohen could have taken if he committed to the outside line, and as you can see, the amount of space between the lone Falcons defender and his path of travel is significantly altered by this.
Instead, Cohen gives the defender a positive pursuit angle which results in the returner himself running out of bounds with very little contact from the defense.
Similar to the Buccaneers’ own DeSean Jackson, Cohen is a quick footed return man who can make a special teams group look foolish with room to operate.
With Cohen having the green light to return punts from within his own 10, Anger is going to have to give his coverage guys the advantage of the sideline to help ensure he doesn’t break a big one in Week 2.