The explosion of the Eagles rushing attack in 2019 has been well documented. It took a few weeks to get going, but once the identity had been established, the rest fell into place. While Miles Sanders may be the more versatile back and a rookie drafted by the Eagles, there’s no lightning without Thunder…and there’s a violent storm unfolding.
A lot of people saw this coming. The Eagles acquired Howard in exchange for a conditional 2020 draft pick. It felt lopsided then and it feels lopsided now. The Bears knew Howard was entering the final year of his rookie contract and the breakout of Tarik Cohen partnered with a rookie class of similarly-built backs pushed Chicago to cash in while they could.
Howard was gradually phased out of the offense in Chicago, but it’s been the reverse story in Philadelphia, with the 24-year old now claiming theLion’s share of carries most weeks, and making the most of them.
“I just know we got a great player and we benefitted from that obviously. ” Doug Pederson told reporters on Wednesday. “We studied his tape and saw what he had done his first couple years in the league and sometimes I think — maybe he didn’t fit their structure and what [Bears Head Coach Matt] Nagy was trying to do, but I can’t really — I don’t want to comment or speculate on that. I know that when we got him, we were excited to get him and get him into our mix and he’s proven to play each week and done a great job.”
He may now be ‘the man’ on the field, but that all started by becoming ‘the man’ off of it. Something the Eagles Head Coach would later touch on.
“I just think he was committed to being here this spring, this summer. Kind of took command of the — because we didn’t have [RB Darren] Sproles at the time and just kind of took charge of that room. It was a young room and he was kind of the veteran guy at the time. And then just how he worked. How he came in here and got in the weight room, picked up our offense. We asked him even to, from a conditioning standpoint, to do some things there and to help himself and he did that and it was important to him.”
Since entering the league three seasons ago, Howard has been nothing short of productive during his time with Chicago. Before this season, the workhorse back amassed 3,370 rushing yards and 24 TDs on 778 carries- ranking third in the NFL in rushing yards since his debut.
Now, eight games deep into his tenure as an Eagle, Howard is averaging his highest ‘yards per carry’ (4.3) since 2017 and is on track to set a new career-high in touchdowns.
The case for giving him a contract extension ASAP can absolutely be made. He’s been the spark the team needed in their biggest wins of the season, including a 3-touchdown romp against the Packers and mos recent 96-yard outing against Buffalo.
Howard will travel back to the team that deemed him expendable this week and there’s bound to be an even heavier chip on his shoulder. Only adding fuel to the fire is the fact that the Bears are only averaging 83 rushing yards per game without him. They do still have the seventh-best run defense in the NFL, but will that be enough to stifle a back who is showing tremendous value as a pass-catcher, something he worked hard on over the last two years, as a blocker, and as a zonal rusher who can pick his holes with precision?
There’s no doubting that Howard will want to prove a point on Sunday against a coaching staff who revamped the offense and deemed him a misfit. But now, playing for a team where he’s the King of the Castle, Howard’s been fed to the wolves and come out swinging. The question now becomes – can he make the Bears pay for getting rid of him?
Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports