Perhaps too much is being made of Jordan Howard’s slightly diminished workload through four games of a 16-game season.
It’s not as if Howard’s picture is popping up on milk cartons around the Chicago area, or the Bears have filed a missing-person report. Since Howard became the Bears’ featured ball carrier in the fourth game of his rookie season (2016), he has averaged 17.8 carries per game. This year he’s averaging exactly 16, so it’s not like the Bears have him packed away in mothballs.
But Howard did receive a season-low 11 handoffs in the Week Four trouncing of the Bucs; while complementary, change-of-pace RB Tarik Cohen carried 13 times.
“Again, (it’s) gameplan specific,” said coach Matt Nagy, who’s heard a lot of questions about Howard’s role in his offense since he was hired in January. “There can be advantages within the personnel, you know. Without me getting too crazy with the specifics of that, if we want to put (Howard) in the game and use him for a certain advantage, we’ll do that, and that could be on first, second or third down. There are other times where it doesn’t fit that way. It just so happened this past game that Tarik got more plays, and he was productive.
“But that has nothing to do with what Jordan Howard is doing. Jordan Howard is a big part of this offense, and I think that for us to continue to keep trying to grow, everybody in this offense has a role. This is not going to be an offense where it’s just one person, and it goes through one person. I don’t necessarily believe in that. It’s great when you have everybody fulfilling different roles, and it’s hard for the defense when you do that.”
Like any bell cow running back, the more Howard gets the ball, the happier he is, but he insists he’s fine with the allocation of work, even against Tampa. But sometimes that’s difficult to believe coming from Howard, who’s a man of few words.
“With a game like that, you don’t have nothing to complain about,” Howard said of the Bears’ 48-10 victory. “You’ve just gotta be happy about a win. So we really got nothing to talk about (regarding) the game. I wasn’t frustrated. I was happy. We won. You see how much we won by? So there’s not really nothing to complain about.”
But, does he want a bigger role? Will there be a Jordan Howard-heavy game in the future.
“Whatever helps the team out,” he said. “It’s not my job to worry about that. It’s just my job to go out there and play and do the best I can to help the team out.”
After averaging 5.2 yards per carry in a spectacular rookie season in which he rushed for 1,313 yards, Howard’s average fell to 4.1 last year. He may actually have had a better season in 2017, though, given the Bears’ pathetic passing game, which allowed defenses to stack the line of scrimmage against the run. Howard still managed 1,122 rushing yards, but he’s off to a slow start this season, averaging just 3.2 yards per carry.
But Nagy insists Howard will not be the odd man out in the Bears’ offense.
“Jordan understands what we’re trying to do as a team,” Nagy said. “And he also understands, and we’ve talked, that he has a major part of this offense. He has a big-time role. But, if it’s an advantage to us to go a different direction for (a specific) game or for that play or that series, we’re going to do that. As long as our guys understand that, we’ll be in good shape. And Jordan is good with that. He understands it.”