Just because the Bears racked up their fourth straight season with 10+ losses, secured a top-10 pick, and had an offense that ranked in the bottom third in the league doesn’t mean the team was devoid of talent.
Take running back Jordan Howard for example.
Howard followed up a Pro Bowl rookie season – in which he gained 1,313 yards – with a second season in which he set career bests in carries (276) and touchdown runs (nine), while gaining another 1,122 rushing yards. Because of his efforts, Bleacher Report’s NFL1000 scouting staff ranked Howard as the NFL’s 10th best running back, where he earned a favorable comparison to one of the few backs better than him.
“While he’s not a second-level speedster, Howard has a bit of Le’Veon Bell in his game in that he has a great deal of patience behind the line of scrimmage and the quickness and power to exploit gaps when they open,” writes NFL1000 Lead Scout Doug Farrar. “Here’s hoping he will be better utilized with a more imaginative coaching staff in 2018 and beyond.”
Howard became the first Bears running back in franchise history to gain at least 1,000 rushing yards in each of his first two seasons. That’s impressive considering how opposing defenses were geared up to stop Howard early. According to Farrar, Howard faced defensive fronts with at least eight in the box on 43.1 percent of his carries in 2017, which was the seventh-highest percentage in the league.
It’s impossible to not take into consideration Howard’s surroundings when trying to put his second season into perspective. He was facing defenses who didn’t respect the Bears’ outside threats, working with a rookie quarterback and an offensive line that used eight different starters. That opposing defenses targeted Howard and he still came away with a 1,000-yard season says a lot about how well he’s played since taking the starting gig from Jeremy Langford in 2016.
And yet, Howard is basically the Bears’ Rodney Dangerfield because he simply gets no respect:
— Jordan Howard (@JHowardx24) January 19, 2018
Damian Lillard, along with many others, believe his resume should have double the All-Star appearances. pic.twitter.com/AzywfAr83Z
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 18, 2018
NFL1000 Running Backs Scout Mark Bullock believes if Howard would be a more household name if he didn’t play for the Bears. So from that perspective, it’s understandable if Howard feels snubbed, disrespected, and even frustrated.
A new day is on the horizon for Howard, who will enter a new offense that just featured the league’s leading rusher. Howard has expressed optimism regarding Matt Nagy’s offense in 2018. If Nagy can carve out a role for Howard as he did with Kareem Hunt, Howard’s time as an afterthought on a national level could be coming to an end.