Chicago Bears Head Coach Matt Nagy gave Jordan Howard a vote of confidence during the offseason, saying the two-time 1,000-yard rusher would be the team’s featured running back in 2018. After Saturday’s practice, Nagy took it a step further: “Jordan can play all three downs. We’re going to do that. We’re going to use him and we’re going to use other guys on first and second down when we need to,” Nagy said, via the team’s official website. “It’s important for Jordan to know and for everybody on our offense to know that he’s a big part of this. This kid’s had a very successful career so far. We’re crazy as coaches if we don’t understand it and if we don’t use that to our advantage.”
Because of Howard’s struggles as a receiver out of the backfield, there is a belief that the Indiana product is limited to just first- and second-down duties. Tack on Tarik Cohen’s excellence as a pass-catcher and potential as a multi-position weapon on the offense, and Howard’s steady production can get lost in the noise. Clearly, his head coach doesn’t believe this should be the case.
In fact, Nagy seems to be playing up Howard and his importance to getting the ground game going and setting up the aerial attack. If the Bears are going to follow the blueprint left behind by the 2017 Los Angeles Rams, they would be wise to lean on Howard the same way the Rams did with Todd Gurley.
This is in no way trying to diminish what the team did in the offseason to revamp the passing game. A busy offseason netted Mitch Trubisky some worthwhile targets who can create mismatches for opposing defense that simply weren’t available last season. But the Bears have to win in the trenches, too. And they simply won’t be able to do that if Howard isn’t a three-down back.