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Jordan Howard on ‘vanilla’ Bears scheme in ’17: ‘People knew what we were doing’

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — Calling last year’s play-calling bland, running back Jordan Howard said Thursday he was excited about Matt Nagy bringing a new offensive direction to the Bears.

Under coordinator Dowell Loggains, only three teams averaged fewer than the Bears’ 16.5 points per game last year. Only two averaged fewer yards than the Bears’ 287.4.

“We were pretty vanilla,” Howard said Thursday at Mall of America. “A lot of times people knew what we were doing. They would call (out) some of the plays. If it was a screen, they’d know when it was a screen. So the defense would be (yelling), like, ‘Screen’ and stuff.’ ‘… you’d be like, ‘Dang, they know what we’re running.’”

Circumstances, of course, played a role in the Bears’ strategy. Rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky started the team’s final 12 games.

Vikings quarterback Case Keenum, left, talks with Chicago Bears running back Jordan Howard after the finale. (AP)

“We weren’t really that deep at receiver and we had some issues there,” Howard said. “And then Mitch was first starting out, so they weren’t throwing too much at him.

“So I feel like a lot of times people knew what we were doing, most times.”

Enter Nagy, the former Chiefs offensive coordinator who the Bears hired last month to replace fired head coach John Fox. His Chiefs finished sixth with 25.9 points and fifth with 375.4 yards per game. Running back Kareem Hunt led the NFL with 1,327 rushing yards. Wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce each surpassed 1,000 receiving yards while catching passes from Alex Smith.

“Just seeing what they did in Kansas City, they put up a lot of points, a lot of yards,” Howard said. “They had two 1,000-yard receivers, the leading rusher in the NFL, 4,000-yard passer, so they’re definitely going to spread the ball around and put up a lot of points and yards.”

Nagy will call plays himself. His hiring of former Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich as coordinator, though, made Howard — who played in an up-tempo spread offense at Indiana — smile.

“I kinda figured we’d be doing some fun stuff,” he said.

Howard, who ran for 1,122 yards last season, said he’ll adjust well to the new scheme. So will Trubisky.

“I definitely feel it will work well with Mitch,” Howard said. “I’m pretty sure they’re going to build it around him, which is what we need to do. I feel like they’re gonna put him in position to succeed.”

If he does, perhaps Howard’s next Super Bowl trip will be in pads.

“You definitely have a thing about what it would be like to play in the Super Bowl,” Howard said. “It’s every person’s dream when they’re playing football growing up. I definitely hope to make it here one day.”

 Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com