It remains to be seen what Year 3 will bring for Bears’ running back Jordan Howard.
First-year head coach Matt Nagy loves to run the ball, but versatile back/pass catcher Tarik Cohen will be on the field a ton in his second season in the NFL.
The 23-year-old Howard has averaged 1,217 rushing yards in two years in Chicago, totaling 14 touchdowns on the ground. He had a career-best 1,313 rushing yards as a rookie and a career-best nine rushing touchdowns last season.
Offensively, the Bears will see plenty stacked boxes and 8-man fronts but it won’t all be on Howard’s shoulders anymore with legitimate wide receivers and tight ends on the roster. Receivers Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller and tight end Trey Burton bring a lot to the table.
According to the NFL’s “Next Generation” stats, Howard saw an 8-man box just over 43.1 percent of his 276 rushing attempts in 2017.
Howard will have less pressure much like his rookie season when the passing game was actually working for then-offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains.
Speed isn’t Howard’s thing. He’s a vision back who uses his brute strength, quick feet and strong legs to his advantage on runs. Howard gets the job done on pitches and draws and that will be huge with all the weapons on this offense now.
Nagy will come up with creative ways to use Howard and Cohen on the field together much like the previous regime did with Matt Forte and Devin Hester.
Back in April, Nagy made it clear that Howard is the No. 1 guy by responding to the reporter’s question by saying: “Absolutely, yeah.”
“To sit here and say a feature back, yeah, he’s going to be the guy who lines up and gets the ball,” Nagy told NFL.com on April 17. “But at the same time, we’re crazy if we use [just] one back. That’s not going to happen. We’re going to use multiple backs.”
A 2016 fifth round pick, Howard has outworked his draft slot simply by training hard and doing everything he can to be the next great Bears running back.
“Howard has been spectacular in his first two campaigns, with more than 1,100 rushing yards in each,” Carr said. “Seeing what new Bears coach Matt Nagy did with Kareem Hunt last season in Kansas City, it’s clear that Howard’s going to be in an excellent position to succeed.”
The longevity of NFL players lasting is not pretty. According to Statista.com, running backs rank the lowest at 2.57 years on average.
Anyone looking at the Bears and comparing their running back room to Kansas City isn’t fair. Rookie Kareem Hunt is a versatile speedy runner and pass catcher. Howard is not nearly the same player and that’s why Cohen’s value will be at an all-time high in Nagy’s offense.
— Flo Ottis (@flo_ottis) August 19, 2016
However, despite all this Howard will have a career year because of the way Nagy calls plays. It will be creativeness and unpredictably, things we haven’t seen in quite some time in Chicago.
Howard will get his carries and if his hands get better, he’ll get his catches as well. Year 3 will be a fun one for Howard because he’s more confident than ever and at the end of the day, he’s quarterback Mitch Trubisky’s safety pin out of the backfield.
He isn’t Matt Forte or isn’t Walter Payton, Howard is the new and improved edition of Anthony Thomas, but with the consistency and the full effort. Look for great things from the Indiana product in this new Bears’ offense in 2018.