Jordan Howard is okay. I know that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement. You might be upset that he’s just “okay”. That’s okay too.
There’s a case for concern and there’s a case for success. Neither side making those cases would be wrong and the debate would rage on for months. Only September would save us from the hyperbole and even that’s an optimistic end date.
The trade itself is exactly what you’d expect from Howie Roseman. Move a crap-shoot, late round selection for a proven, low-cost commodity. It won’t take much for Howard to make the return on investment worthwhile. The value Howard brings on the field could go a lot of different ways, much like his career.
One factor that bodes well for the Eagles’ offense is Howard’s polish as a pass protector. This was a big area of concern in 2018. Combined, the Eagles’ backfield surrendered 14 pressures on 92 pass blocking snaps (15.2%). Howard fared much better with a 2.4% pressure rate surrendered.
Jordan Howard Pass Pro 2018 (Per PFF):— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) March 30, 2019
83 pass block snaps, 2 pressures allowed, 0 sacks. The least pressures allowed for any back w/over 30 blocking snaps.
Reliable, smart player in pass pro - pic.twitter.com/ZFIgGhE8xk
Digging into Howard as a runner, there’s reason to believe that he could experience a career renaissance in Philadelphia. After a down 2018, the Eagles’ offense presents a much better fit for Howard. Their zone concepts and trap game should bode well for Howard, who struggled on his way to a 3.7 yards per carry average last year.
Life was difficult for Howard in part due to an offensive line that regressed as a run blocking unit. Per Football Outsiders, last year the Bears’ line ranked 28th in “Adjusted Line Yards”. That’s a far cry from their 8th ranking in 2016. Pro Football Focus echoes this decline in Howard’s yards before contact, which plummeted over the last two years (2.22 > 1.58 > 1.00). Unfortunately, Howard’s “elusiveness rating” takes a similar arc (14th > 48th > 59th), compounding the problem.
I’ve been asked plenty if the Eagles’ utilization of box counting will ensure more favorable conditions for Howard. According to Next Gen Stats, out of 55 backs, Howard saw the 13th lowest amount of 8+ man boxes. That’s more than Wendell Smallwood (2nd) and less than Josh Adams (18th). Overall, the Bears’ RPO concepts created similarly advantageous box numbers for their running backs. Sports Info Solutions takes it one step further, citing Howard as having the 3rd most runs into boxes with 6 or less defenders.
You can make a great case on either side that explains what was going on with Howard in 2018. On The Kist & Solak Show #87, we go into both of those sides, citing analytics and film, to explain what Howard can be in the Eagles’ offense. We also explain how the acquisition may impact the Eagles’ draft philosophy and get you updated on the Eagles’ top 30 official visits heading into the 2019 NFL Draft.