Howard Cleared for Contact; Will Be Eased Back
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Jordan Howard was cleared for contact after practice on Thursday and is expected to return to the lineup when the Eagles visit the New York Giants on Sunday.
Howard missed the previous six games with a troublesome shoulder/stinger issue that robbed him of strength dut to a nerve issue that needed to "settle down," according to an NFL source.
“He’s good to go,” coach Doug Pederson said before a light practice at Lincoln Financial Field on Friday.
Before suffering the injury late in the game against his former team, the Chicago Bears, on Nov. 3, Howard has emerged as the Eagles’ lead back and in many ways, the post-DeSean Jackson identity of the offense, touching the football 44 times over a two-game span at Buffalo and against the Bears.
He returns to a landscape where rookie Miles Sanders has seized the RB1 job and Boston Scott has turned into a versatile complement.
“The challenge [of integrating Howard] is we’ve been planning with Miles and Boston,” Pederson said. “Jordan gives us obviously a third back, situational guy. We understand who he is. But again, we mentioned yesterday, as far as the conditioning and the game shape and being ready and all that. You just can’t give him a full complement of plays. We don’t want to necessarily disrupt what we have going. But he is a big piece, obviously, to our offense.”
Howard is also not necessarily back to his pre-injury form, according to Pederson.
“[The shoulder is] good," Pederson said. "I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily where he wants it to be. “But it’s good for playing. Again, we’re going to be smart about it."
While Howard will be back the Eagles could be without Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz, who is dealing with both a broken rib and back injury after being hit hard by Xavier Woods of Dallas last week.
"You saw the hit last week and we want to be as transparent as we can with the reports,” Pederson said. “He is dealing not only with the rib but the back as well. The biggest thing is just making sure he feels good. Having gone through this myself personally with this type of injury, it’s discomforting. I want to make sure he’s 100 percent before I put him back out there.”
Right tackle Lane Johnson is trending positively from his high-ankle sprain and the Eagles expect him to begin running on land but time seems to be running out on him as well. Veteran Halapoulivaati Vaitai will make his third consecutive start if Johnson is unable to play.
Neither Ertz or Johnson were at the small portion of practice open to the media on Friday.
“We have to be smart with [managing injured players],” said Pederson. “From the human side of me, I don’t want to put anybody out there and risk anything further for their own health. From a coach side of it, we need everybody. We need as many people as we can in these types of games (but) I’m not going to risk a player further injury for a game.”
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen