From an outcast to a possible diamond in the rough. The story of Jordan Howard’s odd fall from grace is an interesting one. Howard was a 5th round pick of the Chicago Bears back in 2016, the same draft that included players like Carson Wentz, Jared Goff, Ezekiel Elliot and so on.
Howard hit the ground running, no pun intended, in his first season with the Bears, finishing the year as one of the top backs in the league. Howard accredited his success at the time to the fact that not many defenses knew how to play him. He racked up 1,313 yards on the ground with 6 touchdowns and averaged a career-high 5.2 yards per carry. Incredible numbers for a back that was selected 146 spots after Ezekiel Elliot. Speaking of Elliot, after three seasons in the league Howard has become one of the most productive backs in the league trailing only Gurley and the star of the Cowboys backfield.
After his first season, he continued to excel in the John Fox “ground and pound” offense in which he finished once again with 1,000+ yards and 9 touchdowns, although his yards per carry dropped to 4.1 YPC. Still an efficient and young runner, the sky was the limit for Howard until last season.
The Bears fired John Fox and hired one of Andy Reid’s understudies in Matt Nagy. For some reason, Nagy’s system wasn’t fitting for Howard’s playing style or was it? Howard became an outcast in an offense that he could’ve excelled in but the coaching staff favorited Tarik Cohens ability instead. All in all, Jordan still finished with pretty good results although his numbers unfairly declined.
Fast forward to now, the Bears trade their once workhorse back to the Eagles in exchange for a 2020 sixth-round conditional pick. Viewed as a steal, Howard may be more than just a one-year rental for the Eagles. If you recall to the 2017 season, the Eagles traded for Jay Ajayi in the middle of the season and he thrived alongside Blount and Clement. Doug Pederson is a wizard when it comes to pushing players to their full potential.
Howard has come out and said that the Eagles are allowing him to play his game and not limiting him. He’s been catching balls while running routes in OTAs and to little surprise, he’s looked efficient in doing so. With the grouping of Howard, Sanders and Clement, the team may have their running back committee for the next couple of years if they do decide to resign Howard to a team friendly deal. I know the organization is not used to paying big money and letting players go with the hope the next man can step up but Howard may come cheaper than people expect and he may be willing to play behind Sanders if this season goes well.
Sanders and Howard are the perfect pairing, they bring the thunder and lightning that Pederson craves from his backfield. With a motivated Howard and a young Miles Sanders, the running game may be the focal point in a very talented offense. Teams will have to prepare for the Eagles in ways they’re not used to. The play action and RPO packages will be ten times more efficient than it was last season.
Whether Howard has a found a temporary or permanent home, he demands the respect that he’s earned. He’s gone from a 5th round hopeful to one of the most overlooked backs in the league but that’s okay. If there’s one thing you should always remember, Philly loves their underdogs.