As much as Bears rookie Tarik Cohen surprised much of the NFL with a breakout debut Sunday, at least one Bucs player knew exactly what he'd be facing this week as Chicago comes to play Tampa Bay.
"When I saw what he did in his first game, I wasn't shocked at all," said cornerback Ryan Smith, who played at N.C. Central when Cohen played for rival N.C. A&T. "He's a great player, a great athlete. I played him my last two years, and he gave us hell. We beat him, but he was a great player."
Smith and Central won both meetings in close games -- close enough to win by a single yard. In 2014, Cohen rushed for 203 yards and two touchdowns, and was on his way to a tying score in the final five minutes when Central forced a fumble inside the 5-yard line; Smith recovered the loose ball at the 1-yard line to preserve the lead.
Smith had eight tackles in that win, and in 2015, Central won again, but the 5-foot-6 Cohen, nicknamed "The Human Joystick" for his video-game moves, went for 112 yards in a 21-16 loss.
Cohen, a fourth-round draft pick, may have caught the Falcons by surprise, but the Bucs have an advantage in that they were able to watch the Bears' season-opening loss. Defensive coordinator Mike Smith said it was clear that Chicago wanted to get Cohen involved -- he had five rushes for 66 yards, including a 46-yard run to set up a tying touchdown before halftime, and also caught eight passes, including a 19-yard touchdown.
"They obviously wanted to get that rookie the ball as much as possible," Mike Smith said. "By the way, he's a game-wrecker. He's a guy that can really scoot. He's got great speed. He's not very tall. He's going to create mismatch issues for our linebackers, and they want to get him the ball. ... He's a talented guy and they definitely were wanting to have him be an integral part of what they want to do offensively."