The defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles have some issues at running back, and it could put them on the hunt for an acquisition.
Jay Ajayi just went on injured reserve with an ACL injury, and reserves Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood probably aren’t going to carry the load the same way the tag team of Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount did during their title run in 2017. That leaves the Eagles searching the market for solutions, one of which could possibly be in Chicago, according to one long-time NFL expert.
John Clayton has been covering professional football in some capacity since the 1970s, with his most notable stop coming as a reporter at ESPN from 1995-2017. So when he drops a rumor, we should keep an eye on it, especially when it involves a key member of the Chicago Bears … even if it seems a little crazy at first blush:
Clayton also mentions Chicago RB Jordan Howard as a sleeper to keep an eye on for the #Eagles.
— SPORTSRADIO 94WIP (@SportsRadioWIP) October 9, 2018
This isn’t the first time Howard’s name has popped up on the rumor mill. Remember, the Miami Dolphins were reportedly interested in an offseason swap that would have sent receiver Jarvis Landry to Chicago, but those rumors never really took off, and were ultimately denied.
HOWEVER, the timing of this latest round of speculation is interesting and Howard’s ties to the Eagles could be fueling the rumor mill. Which, of course, is not to say anything is going to happen.
Even if Howard’s role in the offense is unsettled at the moment, Bears Head Coach Matt Nagy insists there is still a “big-time” role for the two-time 1,000-yard rusher. For what it’s worth, Howard publicly brushed off rumblings that he was displeased with his place in the offense, telling reporters there was “nothing to complain about” after being out-touched and out-produced by Tarik Cohen in Week 4. And while Howard has been viewed as an odd fit for the Bears offense by some, Nagy has shown public support for his starter at every turn – going as far as to express a belief that Howard was going to be a three-down back in this offense. The feelings seemed mutual from Howard’s perspective, seeing that he figured to be a potential game-breaker in a new scheme – especially after leaving the old offense in the dust.
That said, we should at least mention the connections Howard has in Philadelphia’s front office. Joe Douglas, who currently serves as the Eagles’ Vice President of Player Personnel, was in the Bears’ Director of College Scouting when the team drafted Howard in the fifth round out of Indiana. It wouldn’t be surprising if Douglas saw the potential running back by committee situation brewing in Chicago and viewed Howard as an upgrade to his team.
Then again, wouldn’t the Eagles’ interest in Howard be questionable since Head Coach Doug Pederson is also an Andy Reid disciple, who would have similar offensive values as Nagy?
In any case – and this is the most important thing – it wouldn’t make sense for the Bears to give up a lead back in the middle of a season where the team is off to a 3-1 start and sitting atop the division. Trading Howard right now makes no sense unless the team valued Cohen as an every-down back, but there have been no signs of such valuation. In fact, Nagy was careful in using Cohen during the preseason with eyes on the big picture and in an attempt to limit wear-and-tear. And even if Cohen were viewed as a guy who needs to gobble up a greater and greater share of the running back touches, that hardly means the Bears have no use for keeping Howard – and keeping him involved.
Whispers are out there, and they’re worth sharing. But it’s very hard to imagine the Bears’ willingness to move Howard matching the Eagles’ desire to fix their tattered running game.
Michael: I fully agree with everything Luis wrote above, but want to add my two-cents, nonetheless.
Basically … while it may look like Howard’s role is diminishing from the outside, the possibility remains that this was just a matchup-oriented decision. After all, the Bucs defense was notoriously bad at defending offense in the air and actually pretty good at stuffing the run. So the use of Cohen over Howard, as we explored, was more than justified. And let’s remember, this was just one week and one decision based on those underlying matchup statistics, *and* Nagy has already assured Howard that he has a big-time role in this offense.
All of which is to say, OF COURSE the Eagles would want Howard. Who wouldn’t? The thing is, the Bears do too. Even if you believe in Cohen, you have to admit that much of his success is based on his ability to play *off* Howard – be the lightening to his thunder. The two of them together are a much bigger (and more versatile) threat than either could be apart.
And furthermore, all of this goes without mentioning the fact that the Bears are currently in first place, with the chance to take advantage of a division, whose leaders may not have gotten off to as hot of a start as they probably should have, and the Bears are taking advantage. Rocking the boat *this* much when things are going *this* well seems needlessly risky – at best.