Read Options: Jordan Howard has become Bears’ No. 1 back
Adam L. Jahns’ “Read Options” column appears in Pro Football Weekly, which is available Thursday or Friday in the Chicago Sun-Times, Daily Herald, Rockford Register Star, Northwest Herald, Kankakee Daily Journal, Peoria Journal Star and on ProFootballWeekly.com.
Bears running back Jordan Howard should have kept running. But he didn’t. Colts safety Mike Adams approached, and Howard tried to fight him off with a stiff arm and failed.
“I definitely feel like I still should have just kept running,” Howard said. “I felt like I had an angle on him and he got behind me.”
That’s how a 57-yard run turns into a learning moment for a rookie back.
“In the games, I just have to trust my speed sometimes,” he said.
As impressive as Howard has been in two starts, it’s thought that he’s got more to show. He thinks it. The Bears think it. And the rest of the NFL is starting to think it.
With the Bears at 1-4 and this season more about development than anything else, Howard is their most intriguing player to watch.
“He has a bright future,” coach John Fox said.
The Bears drafted Howard because of his power. It would be the perfect complement to Jeremy Langford’s speed. Now it’s looking like Langford’s speed will be best used as a complement to Howard, who has run for 296 yards on 51 carries.
Langford probably scores on the run Howard turned into a 57-yard gain. He’s faster. There is no disputing that. But Howard is proving to be faster than the scouting world initially thought. If Howard keeps his focus on the end zone, there is a good chance he still outraces Adams for the points. Howard actually slowed up in an attempt to fend him off.
Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said bigger backs can struggle in outside zone runs, but that’s not the case with Howard. His feet are quick enough to handle inside and outside zone runs.
Howard’s vision might be his best attribute. It helps him be patient. And he’s getting better at diagnosing what he’s seeing. Howard is setting up those who want to tackle him.
His 57-yard run included a bad fit by Colts cornerback Patrick Robinson. Howard made his cut inside of guard Kyle Long, who reached the second level and swallowed linebacker D’Qwell Jackson. Robinson filled a hole outside of Long.
“I definitely feel like my vision has improved,” Howard said. “I know what I’m doing just knowing the blocking schemes and knowing how to set up blocks.”
Some teams will have answers for Howard. And he’ll have to scale the rookie wall at some point.
But over the past two weeks, Howard has looked like the ideal blend of power, speed and vision behind an offensive line that’s built strongly from the inside out.
“[Howard has] better feet, better vision and even better speed than what you would see in a back that size,” Loggains said.
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Pro Football Focus’ grades for offensive linemen are often disputed. Sometimes there is just too much going on up front as far as assignments to know exactly what linemen are trying to do on plays.
But their latest grade for rookie center Cody Whitehair is important to point out.
PFF ranked Whitehair as their 10th best player in Week 5 as far as individual performances. Others on that list included Broncos star pass rusher Von Miller and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
The Bears have something in Whitehair. He’s been that good. Everyone is starting to see it.
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Since Fox is concerned about press-box menus these days, let’s point out who tops our power rankings for the best grub in the league.
It’s Lambeau Field and the Packers.
There always are cheese curds. Heck, they’ve been known to add a carving station. A brat station also is a staple.