The Chicago Bears appear to have re-discovered their running game late in the season, which could lead to their leading rusher receiving some well-deserved accolades.
Jordan Howard has been nominated for the FedEx Ground Player of the Week award, which goes to a player fans believe delivered the best performance each week. You can vote on the award here and proudly say you did your civic duty as a Bears fan today, just as you did when Mitch Trubisky won the Air Player of the Week not just once, but twice.
Howard rushed for 109 yards and two rushing scores in Week 17 against the Minnesota Vikings en route to a 24-10 win that knocked last year’s NFC North champions out of the playoff race altogether. Sunday’s performance was Howard’s second 100-yard rushing game of the season and marked just the third time in 2018 in which he averaged more than five yards per carry.
The 2018 season marked the first time Howard didn’t eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing barrier. HOWEVER, his late-season efforts have been encouraging and being voted the Ground Player of the Week would be a nice nod to what Howard has done down the stretch.
Since Week 13, Howard has been given 88 carries, gained 399 rushing yards, averaged 4.5 yards per carry, and scored four touchdowns. It’s a solid five-game stretch that – when extrapolated over 16 games – adds up to a 282-carry, 1,277-yard, 13-touchdown season. I know I’m not the only one asking where can the Bears sign up for that stat line from a Bears running back.
There is no denying Howard has struggled to find footing in his first year in Matt Nagy’s offense. Prior to this run of successful rushing games, Howard averaged just 14.7 carries per game and 3.1 yards per rush. Not quite what we had in mind when he ran for 82 yards on 15 carries while adding 5 catches that went for 25 yards in the season opener at Green Bay.
Howard has definitely made the most of the extra attention at the end of the regular season and you can figure he will be a key cog in the offense when the Philadelphia Eagles come to town for Sunday’s opening-round playoff game. We now have a three-year sample size in which to judge Howard’s late-season rushes, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s no longer a coincidence that he gets better as the season goes on. In 15 games played after December 1, Howard has been given 268 carries, gained 1,221 yards, and scored 12 touchdowns. That comes out to an average of 81.4 yards per game, which would rank as the sixth-highest per-game average in the NFL in 2018.
While I’m against the idea of running for the sake of it, there is value in balance. Moreover, there is value in getting the ball in the hands of the playmakers in Nagy’s offense. Howard is showing that he can be one of those playmakers … and the timing could not be any better.