Why Jordan Howard could be set to lead a rushing resurgence in Eagles backfield


Howard did his part, rushing for nearly 1000-yards for the third straight year, but his efficiency metrics left a lot to be desired. His 3.7 YPC paled in comparison to the 4.5 mark set by backfield mate Tarik Cohen. Howard also never got much traction in Nagy’s passing game, often being pulled off the field in favor of Cohen.

Howard was virtually phased out of the offense and soon, off the roster entirely. Now, as a member of the Eagles, Howard will likely be a part of another 1-2 punch, although he’s primed to do a lot more damage this time around.

Paired in the backfield with the supremely talented 2019 second-rounder Miles Sanders, the Eagles seem prepared to return to the top of the rushing charts after spending a year in the cellar. Sanders, who famously backed up Saquon Barkley at Penn State, exploded on the collegiate scene last season after the former was drafted to the Giants.

The Pittsburgh native rushed for over 1200 yards and 9 TDs in his first and lone season as the lead back at Penn State. Unlike Howard, who is a much more physical runner known for breaking tackles, Sanders offers the best of both worlds, his skillset possessing a blend of elusiveness and toughness. Last season, Sanders ranked in the top ten among all draft-eligible backs in forced missed tackles (47) and yards after contact (845), according to Pro Football Focus.

Partnered with Howard in Philly, the two should form quite the explosive tandem behind Wentz, especially since they perform their best in the Eagles’ primary run concept- inside zone runs.

Since 2016, no running back has registered more carries on inside zone runs than Jordan Howard (317), and his efficiency graded out as the 8th best out of 100, according to PFF. Additionally, Sanders averaged 3.96 yards ​after​ contact per carry on inside zone rushes last season, proving he’s more than capable of handling the physicality of maneuvering through the trenches for tough yardage.

In Philly, not only will Howard and Sanders be put in an excellent situation schematically by Doug Pederson, but they will get to do their damage behind arguably the best offensive line in football. Philly is absolutely loaded across the o-line, featuring former Pro Bowlers at every single position. Behind a line that could carry just about any serviceable back to a solid season, having Howard and Sanders taking the bulk of carries is almost too good to be true.

Last season, one of every ten of Howard’s carries went to RG/RT. He averaged 6.1 YPC and recorded six runs of 10+ yards. Now, he’ll be unleashed behind perennial Pro Bowlers Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson when dashing to the right. As for Sanders, the offensive line should provide an even bigger improvement, as he’s certainly never run behind a line as talented at the high school or collegiate level.

Ever since Sanders was drafted back in April, there has been a ton of talk about who should receive the lion’s share of carries between him and Howard. Frankly, I think we may be in store for more of a 50/50 split than someone taking over as the bell cow- for several reasons.

For starters, Doug Pederson has always like to mix-and-match in the backfield, implementing a running back by committee everywhere he goes. Additionally, Pederson has always placed a huge emphasis on the time of possession battle and the easiest way to win that matchup is a successful run game. There will be plenty of carries to go around this season as RB coach Duce Staley will try to keep everyone fresh, especially once the team gels and find themselves locked in games with a sizable lead, and it could result in both Howard and Sanders registering monster campaigns in their Eagles debut seasons.

Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports