For Jordan Howard, eight games as an Eagle has been business as usual, even if so many are making a big deal out of his 443 yards, his 4.4-yard-per-carry average, and his five touchdowns rushing. That he has the second-lowest negative run percentage in the league, well, that’s just who Jordan Howard is, has been, and will be.
As he prepares to face the team for whom he played from 2016-18, Howard is keeping a low profile. But, again, that’s what he does, who he is. Acquired by the Eagles in March for the price of a conditional late-round draft pick in 2020 – it could be as high as a fifth-round selection – Howard is making that deal tilt far in the favor of Howie Roseman and the Eagles.
“I’m just playing football and doing everything within the scheme, the system,” Howard said. “It’s what I’ve always done.”
No question about that. Howard isn’t out to show the Bears, for whom he gained 3,813 yards and scored 24 touchdowns in three seasons, that they made a gigantic mistake dealing him to the Eagles. He insists that he’s only focused on Chicago because that’s the defense he will face in this critical Week 9 game.
“I’m not thinking about the past,” he said. “Not one bit.”
Why should he? Howard is living it up in the present, teaming with rookie Miles Sanders to give the Eagles a dynamic and punishing 1-2 punch in the backfield. The Eagles are one of only three teams in the league with two running backs who have each produced more than 500 yards of offense from the line of scrimmage (New Orleans and Denver are the other two teams). Howard is the first Eagles running back since LeSean McCoy in 2011 to have 400-plus yards and five touchdowns scored in eight games.
Chicago moved on from Howard because, heck, that’s just the way it is in this crazy NFL. The Bears preferred a different type of back in Tarik Cohen and they used a third-round pick to select David Montgomery in the 2019 NFL Draft. Howard is in the final year of his contract, and that probably played into the decision to send Howard to a team that has used his talents perfectly.
“I’m just glad to be here in this offense and for a team that wants me. That feels good. I’ve felt comfortable since I’ve been here and the offense is starting to get to the point where we want it to be,” Howard said. “We’ve just missed a couple of times but I think we’re building and going in the right direction.”
Howard’s focus is on a Bears defense that is among the NFL’s best and one of the stingiest against the run, allowing the sixth-fewest yards per game on the ground, 86 yards. The Bears are fast and they are strong and they are aggressive. They’re going to mix up their fronts. They’re going to stunt and twist and try to create some gaps in the Eagles’ line of scrimmage. The Bears know that to get to the Eagles, stopping the run puts the offense behind the chains and the defense in favorable situations.
Sunday’s game within the game is a classic matchup, a renewal of the slugfest we saw in January’s playoff game, a 16-15 Eagles win at Soldier Field. The Eagles’ offensive line faces its stiffest test against a great front seven.
“I practiced against that defense for three years and most of the guys are still there and I always had a lot of respect, understanding how good they were and are,” Howard said. “We have to do a great job to run against them.”
Howard is going to get his carries and he may even have a touch or two in the passing game, a knock he had coming from Chicago that he’s clearly worked on and improved. Truly, Howard has been a complete back who has also delivered solid, at times downright punishing, pass protection as well. And we saw him as the lead blocker on Sanders’ 65-yard touchdown run in Buffalo, another demonstration of Howard’s full game.
“It’s been going well and I think we can get better,” Howard said. “That’s what I’m focusing on. We’re 4-4. We need a win. That’s the only thing I’m thinking about in this game, what I can do to help us win.”