While Mitch Trubisky struggles to find his footing in the passing game, Jordan Howard needs to get into a groove on the ground.
Indeed, Howard’s production on the ground has taken a hit in each of the last two weeks, and the Bears’ offense has suffered because of it. After averaging 5.5 yards per carry against the Packers, Howard has mustered up just 2.5 yards per rush in the two games that followed. And even with his strong opening night showing, Howard is averaging a career-low 3.4 yards per carry. Yikes.
Usually, when things go wrong in the NFL, coaches like to fall back to whatever’s been proven to work in the past. For Howard, that would mean more rushes to the left. Unfortunately, that’s exactly where he’s having issues this season.
Left Side Runs
- 2018: 10 attempts, 35 yards, 3.5 y/a
- 2017: 97 attempts, 455 yards, 4.7 y/a
Even though we’re looking at a sample that’s probably still way too small, the evidence is damning. Howard’s production has taken a step backward while running left this season, and to a notable degree. With that said, Howard continues to create plays running down the left sideline, perhaps because left tackle Charles Leno Jr. continues to blossom at left tackle. Check it out:
Left Sideline Runs
- 2018: 3 attempts, 26 yards, 8.7 y/a
- 2017: 62 attempts, 275 yards, 4.4 y/a
But still … what gives?
Howard’s struggles running left might just be tied to left guard Eric Kush. The 29-year-old starter ranks 67th among the 73 qualifying guards, according to Pro Football Focus’ grading scale. And when it comes to Kush’s contributions as a run-blocker, his 46.3 run-blocking grade is the sixth worst among players at his position. Not quite what the Bears were hoping to get when Kush was tabbed the starter over rookie James Daniels, a player who still needs to grow, but is believed to have more upside and potential than the starter currently in place.
Chicago’s Week 4 match-up against Tampa Bay is one where Kush needs to thrive, as the team hopes to head into the bye week on a high note. Of course, it’ll be easier said than done as he gets set to square off against an elite interior defender in Gerald McCoy.
There aren’t any rumblings of Kush losing is job or being replaced, but things can change at any given moment in the game of football. But if Howard’s problems continue and Kush’s run-blocking productivity doesn’t get back on the right track, the Bears will be forced to take a hard look at shaking up the offensive line.