With 3,370 rushing yards in the last three seasons, Jordan Howard is one of only three players in the NFL – along with Ezekiel Elliott and Todd Gurley – with more than 3,000 ground yards since 2016. Only Gurley and Howard have scored at least nine touchdowns rushing in each of the last two seasons. The numbers, then, say that Howard is an elite running back in this league.
So why isn’t anyone talking about him like that?
“All of that,” said Howard, a soft-spoken 6-foot, 224-pounder, “isn’t important to me. I just want to contribute to a winning football team. If I do that, everything else will take care of itself.”
Howard is in position to contribute, in a very large way, to the Eagles in 2019. Acquired in a late March trade with Chicago for the cost of a late-round draft pick in 2020, Howard figures to have his hands on the football a lot this season. Maybe not as much as when he was a Bear and had 778 rushing attempts in three seasons (an average of 259 carries per year), but enough to carve out a substantial role in an offense that wants to punish defenses with Howard’s power running style and nose for the end zone.
As the NBA’s free-agency period kicks into high gear, it’s worth noting what the Eagles did in the NFL’s version of Salaries Gone Wild. They signed a stalwart for the middle of the defensive line with Malik Jackson, traded for wide receiver DeSean Jackson, maneuvered within the confines of the salary cap to make other significant additions and, just when the attention was turning toward the 2019 NFL Draft, stepped up and got a deal done with Chicago to bring Howard to Philadelphia.
It may end up being the most significant addition of the offseason.
“He fits into what we’re doing in every way,” head coach Doug Pederson said of Howard. “He’s a durable, physical running back who knows how to move the sticks, move a pile. He’s a very talented player who, obviously, has had a lot of success in the league. We think he’s the right fit and he’s shown that so far. Jordan works right into our offense.”
Along with Miles Sanders, a second-round draft pick and No. 53 overall in the spring, the Eagles have overhauled their running back room. Last year, they headed into the season hoping that Jay Ajayi would be the main man, buffeted by second-year back Corey Clement and change-of-pace veteran Darren Sproles. All three missed significant chunks of the season. Upgrading at running back was a key must-do in the offseason.
With Howard, the Eagles have a player who may not dazzle with long runs and headlines-grabbing touchdown jaunts, but he’s going to add a legitimate threat from the backfield for defenses that are already going to have their hands full defending the multi-layered passing attack.
“I think this is about as well-rounded and talented a group that I’ve been around,” Howard said of the Eagles’ loaded skill position players. “But we’ve got to go out there on the field and get it done. You don’t play football games on paper. I’m just happy to be here and I’m going to be ready for whatever they want me to do. Just win. That’s what it’s all about.” ••