Birds Under 24 Analysis: Jordan Howard

Eagles fans are excited to welcome running back Jordan Howard into their already loaded offense. Howard brings experience and toughness that will help fill the void that was left by Blount in the Eagles’ Super Bowl winning season. Let’s jump into an analysis of Jordan Howard.

2018/19 Summary

Jordan Howard has just completed his third season in the NFL and unfortunately saw his numbers drop across the board. The 24 year old out of University of Indiana found himself in a time-share with emerging running back Tarik Cohen. This past season, he rushed for 935 yards on 250 attempts for 3.7 yards per carry, caught 20 passes for 135 yards, and had 9 rushing touchdowns. Howard only had two fumbles on the entire season and has taken care of the ball his entire career.

The timeshare cannot be fully blamed for the lack of production. Howard, in his rookie year, rushed 252 times and had 1,313 yards for 5.2 yards per carry. Howard’s production was so poor last season that advanced metrics actually show that the Bears would have been better off without Howard on the field. His numbers have dropped each of the last two seasons and hopefully a change of scenery and new offense can bring back that dominant rookie version of Jordan Howard. I think it’s also important to point out that even though Howard had a lackluster 2018 season, in his first two years he had over 2,000 yards rushing and got to 2,000 yards faster than the great Walter Payton.

Weaknesses

While there is plenty to like about Jordan Howard, he’s not without flaws. Howard’s most glaring weakness in today’s NFL is his pass-catching. Howard does not have passing game prowess of a Kamara or Bell or Gordon. He runs he routes well, but he is not believable a passing back. This will preclude Howard from being a three-down back for the Eagles. It’s likely that the Eagles never planned on using Howard as a three-down back and want to focus on getting him between the tackles and pass blocking.

Howard’s other weakness is his confidence. Since Tarik Cohen arrived in Chicago, Howard’s role lessened and his productivity took a massive hit. Hopefully in this new city and system, Howard will know his role day one and focus on being effective in this new offense. I think that Howard’s mindset was hurt by the sudden emergence of Cohen, and he has to learn to be more mentally strong and produce when his number is called. The Eagles have five running backs that could potentially see time in Howard, rookie Miles Sanders, Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood, and Josh Adams. It remains to be seen if they all make the opening day roster, but Howard will absolutely have competition and will be forced to work to keep his spot.

Strengths

Now, let’s move to Howard’s strengths. Howard is an above average pass-blocker. With the Eagles going all-in on Carson Wentz, his health is of the utmost importance. Howard will likely have several sets where he blocks the initial rush and has delayed screen routes. He has proven the last three seasons that he is able to read defenses and pick up the blocks when his QB needs them.

Howard does not have breakaway, second-level speed like some backs in the league, however, he is able to get up to speed as he crosses the line of scrimmage which helps him break tons of tackles and fight for extra yards. He earned the nickname “Bulldozer” because it was so hard to stop Howard on his initial push. Howard does a great job of always falling forward, and you will be hard-pressed to find a video Howard being pushed backwards after crossing the line of scrimmage. If you do find it, it will likely take three defenders to push Howard backwards. That kind of toughness is going to be huge for the Eagles goal line sets. I will be shocked if Howard isn’t the Eagles’ goal line back this season.

Role for 2019

Howard will be competing for touches with explosive rookie Miles Sanders. Howard will likely be the starter in week one, but I would not be shocked to see him split carries with Sanders. I think Sanders will be used more as a pass catching back and an outside runner, and Howard will be used more between the tackles and in short yardage situations.

Howard will be counted on to block and catch some balls, and his effectiveness in those areas will likely dictate the amount of playing time for this season. With Howard’s experience edge over Sanders, I have to assume he will initially see a lot more playing time, with Clement and Sanders sharing passing down duties.

2019 Season Expectations and Predictions

Howard will have big expectations this season as Philadelphia fans hold every player to a high standard. A lot of fans remember how good Howard was in his first two seasons and will be looking for that player to emerge this season. I expect Howard to see about 50% of the snaps at the running back position this year as I expect many two back sets. As Eagles fans know, Pederson is not afraid to go with the hot hand, so some weeks he may see more or less action depending on the defense and the game script.

In terms of production, I expect that Howard will reach 1,000 yards again this season in a high powered, highly skilled, fast paced offense. I don’t see Howard as a volume pass catcher on a team that has so many weapons, but he will certainly be counted on to catch balls on broken plays and make something out of nothing.

I also predict that Howard will get into the endzone ten times. This may sound a little crazy, however, this offense will put Howard on the goal line consistently, and he will be given tons of opportunities to punch the ball into the end zone.

Eagles fans are excited about Howard, and hopefully he gives them a lot to cheer about.