Eagles Happy to Have What Bears Didn’t Want
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - In many ways, this is Jordan Howard week as the Eagles host their leading rusher's former team, the Chicago Bears, at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday.
Acquired by the Eagles for pennies on the dollar in the offseason after amassing two 1,000-yard seasons and a 935-yard campaign in 2018 for the Bears -- the third most productive stretch for any back in the NFL over those three years -- the 6-foot, 225-pound power back has seized bell cow duties in Doug Pederson's committee approach after starting the season behind rookie Miles Sanders.
At the midway point, after putting together a 23-carry, 96-yard performance in a blowout win in Buffalo last week, Howard is all of a sudden at 443 yards through eight games. If the increased workload continues in the second half, it's likely the fourth-year player rings up his third 1,000-yard season, a tough goal when thinking about the Philadelphia distribution model.
Howard's 23 totes against the Bills were the most ever for a RB under Pederson in Philadelphia but the coach is now understanding what a back like Howard offers the offense, something Mike Zimmer described before facing the Eagles earlier this month.
"He's the kind of guy you hit at two yards and it ends up a five-yard gain," the Vikings coach said of the back he became all too familiar with in the NFC North.
Chicago got a conditional sixth-round pick for Howard, deemed an ill-suited fit for Matt Nagy's offense, which wants more of a home run threat.
Pederson, like Nagy an Andy Reid disciple, said there are differences in philosophy between his offense and his old friend's though and Pederson has integrated other power backs into his scheme in the past with some success, players like LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi.
"The philosophies are different," Pederson explained. "Our teams are built differently."
As for why Chicago gave up on such a productive player, Pederson demurred.
“Sometimes, I think -- maybe he didn’t fit their structure of what [Nagy] was trying to do but I don’t really want to comment or speculate on that," Pederson said.
Instead, the Eagles coach focused on what his team thought Howard could do which is a little bit more than expected when you consider the lead-isolation block that resulted in a 65-yard Miles Sanders touchdown run against Buffalo, more receiving skills than advertised and the ability to pass protect.
"There were some clips of him catching the ball out of the backfield with the Bears, so we knew he could do that," Pederson said. "The blocking stuff, some of the things they did, some of their sort of special gadget type plays, he was a lead blocker on some of those and so we saw that on tape from him. This guy, he's just a humble guy, he’s a hungry guy. He wants to perform, he wants to help us win and he really fit well into that running back room."
What the Eagles knew they were getting was a chain mover, one who figures to haunt his old team over Halloween weekend.
“I just know we got a great player,” Pederson said. “And we’ve benefited from that [trade] obviously.”
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen