Jordan Howard should be the Eagles lead running back in week two

When the Eagles traded a 6th round pick for Howard, people raised eyebrows as to why the Bears would give him up for such a small price. The conclusions were in large parts a statistical decline in running ability, that he didn’t fit the scheme, and that Cohen would take over anyway.

Taking a look at the production since 2016, it’s evident that the numbers decline. While still producing over 1.000 yards in each of his first 3 seasons, his yards per touch and total yards went down:

Total yards161112471080

What is interesting to me is that the offensive line play from last year is mentioned very rarely but played such a huge role in the apparent ‘decline’.

For one, the most important pieces of the offensive line in 2016 and 2017, pro bowlers Josh Sitton and Kyle Long, were healthy. In 2018, Sitton was gone, Long missed 8 games, and Eric Kush missed 9 games.

Secondly, the general run-blocking performance declined with almost 20 points from 2016 to 2018:

To put things into perspective, Jordan Howard out-performed Tarik Cohen with a rushing grade of 65.2 vs 63.4, despite receiving over 3 times the workload behind a terrible OL.

Even in the worst year of offensive line play in 3 years, Howard converted 23/31 runs of 2 yards or less yards on 3rd or 4th down. That was second only to Ezekiel Elliot, who finished 35/46 behind a top offensive line.

Finally, Howard has the 3rd most rushing yards of all RBs since 2016, finishing behind only Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliot.

He started 2018 in an explosive fashion too, ending week one averaging a whopping 7.3 yards per carry. However, he was used sparingly on just six attempts. In comparison to the 11 from Sanders and 9 from Sproles, this was a little puzzling, but something Doug Pederson would later explain.

“Well, some of it was by design, some of the plays that were effective. As you know, when we construct games, we have multiple run schemes and they are designed for different guys. The ones that were kind of clicking today were the Darren ones, and so just kept calling his number there. Those other two guys I thought ran well, also. Unfortunate we get the late holding call late in the game there on that one, but Miles is explosive, as you know. Jordan ran extremely hard. So excited for all three of those guys.”

That may well be the case, but I think everyone can agree that Howard deserves more carries moving forward.

The film doesn’t lie either. Howard runs with a hard, punishing style, and will identify the gaps quickly. He has tremendous patience while letting the holes develop and hits them hard:

The best RB on the field vs Redskins

Despite being the least utilized RB of Sproles, Miles, and himself, Howard was impressive in all facets of a RB’s job; pass protect well, catch tough passes out of the backfield, and run hard to move the chains:

The second half was no different, as he continued to do all the right things, running hard between the tackles, smartly in open field, and catching passes out of the backfield.

The fit vs Atlanta

Atlanta run a fast defense. Takkarist McKinley, Grady Jarrett, Vic Beasley, Deion Jones, Richardo Allen, and Keanu Neal are some mouthful.

How do you beat up on a fast but equally skinny defense? You run it down their throat with your insane OL and a physical RB. Let’s not forget that this unit is only one week removed from Dalvin Cook running all over them and carving through holes like a hot knife through butter. This shouldn’t be surprising. Atlanta ranked 25th in run defense last year and whether it was due to injuries or not, history looks set to repeat itself. So why not take full advantage of a struggling unit?

Jordan Howard is an underrated star. It’s time to use him like one.

Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

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