By: Alex Patt
Just last week when Vikings corner Xavier Rhodes talked about who he thought the best players in the NFC North were. In his list, he mentioned Bears RB Jordan Howard as fifth-best in the division. Considering the elite company he is with including Rhodes himself and Aaron Rodgers, that is a real compliment for the Bears back.
“Oh my God…Jordan Howard is so hard to take down. He keeps such a low center of gravity.” -Xavier Rhodes
The 23-year old running back has quietly put up some outstanding rushing stats in his young career. His first two seasons in the NFL he rushed for over 1000 yards and has 15 rushing touchdowns. Going into Monday night’s game against the Seahawks, he was at 2,517 career rushing yards. He did not record much against the Seahawks, only 35 rushing yards, but he caught three passes for 33 receiving yards. Probably his highlight of the game Monday night was a catch towards the sideline he made in the Bears first drive. It helped set up an eventual touchdown pass from Mitch Trubisky to Trey Burton.
Some questioned if he would fit into Matt Nagy’s system going into this season, seeing as catching is one thing he struggled with in his career. However if he can catch like he has the first two games of 2018, then his value goes up even more. Regardless it really does not seem wise to give up a talent like Howard, he is the real deal. When you have elite defenders like Xavier Rhodes praising you, then you are doing something right. Having a back like Howard that can pound through defensive lines the way he can is something every football team would want.
It is easy to forget that Howard had the second-most rushing yards in 2016 as a rookie behind Ezekiel Elliott. He also averaged the fourth-most yards per attempt that year (5.2). That was on a 3-13 Bears team that did not have much around him. If that team was any good then he would have definitely gotten more attention from the national media. Now can be a time to shine if the Bears do indeed make noise and he does his thing.
As Nagy develops the offense more, Howard can see more usage. No question he has not been used nearly as much as he was on average under John Fox the past two years, but it has only been two games. At least he used him more on third and fourth down Monday than he did in Green Bay, which was an adjustment that had to be made. Nagy is a “pass first” coach, but as he works at this offense and understands Howard’s ability to pound the ball on the ground, expect him to put up more impressive numbers. Having a versatile offense is so valuable even when a modern offensive-minded coach is very passer friendly.