Cup of Joe: Carrying the torch

Cup of Joe: Carrying the torch
02 October 2016: Chicago Bears Running Back Jordan Howard (24) runs with the ball as Detroit Lions Linebacker Kyle Van Noy (53) attempts to tackle him in the 1st quarter during an NFL football game between the Detroit Lions and the Chicago Bears at Solider Field in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Daniel Bartel/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Written by Joe Tidei/Special to Bears Backer

Indianapolis, Indiana: Bears 2008 season opener against Peyton Manning and the Colts.

First quarter, a rookie named Matt Forte takes the handoff from quarterback Kyle Orton, gets to the second level, makes a ridiculous cut on cornerback Antoine Bethea and takes it to the house for a 50-yard touchdown.

This past Sunday, another rookie running back made his Bears debut, Jordan Howard and he was just as impressive as Forte was.

Howard showcased a little bit of everything on his way to a 112-yard performance against the Lions. He also added three catches for 21 yards.

Howard isn’t as flashy or explosive as Forte, but he’s more powerful and possesses the same all around ability; natural pass catcher, willing and responsible/able pass blocker, patient runner, good vision and an intelligent football player who knows where he needs to be.

I also have to give credit to Jake Perper, who loved Howard during the draft process and was excited when the Bears took him in the 5th round.

Howard isn’t a fluke, even if it’s only been one game. He showed this same ability in the preseason when he ran all over Cleveland and a bit against Dallas when Jeremy Langford went down with an ankle injury.

After the game, the normally coy John Fox lit up when he talked to the media about Howard, “I think he’s outstanding and we will ride him pretty good moving forward.”

That’s pretty effusive praise from Fox and it means that Howard took Langford’s starting job.

Maybe the biggest beneficiary of Howard though is the passing game and how he changes the dynamic of the offense. He gives the Bears balance, which they sorely need, especially now with Kevin White sidelined indefinitely with an ankle injury.

Brian Hoyer played very well against the Lions and a lot of that had to do with Howard’s ability to get 4-5 yards a carry on early downs.

His style will wear defenses down and he opens up options with his versatility. He’s a three down back that can run both inside and outside and is a threat in the passing game.

If you’re expecting Howard to be an Adrian Peterson type back challenging for 2,000 yards every season though, you’ll be disappointed. He’s not that type of running back and he doesn’t need to be to become an impact player.

Howard brings reliability and consistency, much like Forte did in his brilliant seven-year career with the Bears.

What impressed me the most about Howard was his ability to get positive yards on every carry, even after contact. He gets north-south quick and is always moving forward manufacturing his own yards.

Howard won’t beat a defense with explosive runs. He’ll beat them 4-5 yards at a time and eventually pop a big one as the game goes on.

As Fox builds his roster, he’s looking for players to take advantage of their opportunities. Howard certainly did that and more on Sunday.

Howard won’t make anyone forget about Forte, but if his debut is any indication of his future, the Bears are going to have another stud in the backfield for a long time.

Author’s note: Joe is an associate producer at CSN Chicago. Give him a follow on Twitter @Joe_Tidei. He talks Chicago sports all day every day.

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Filed under: Bears Corner

Tags: Joe Tidei, Jordan Howard

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