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Chicago Bears running back Jordan Howard (24) runs the ball against the Cleveland Browns during an NFL football game in Chicago, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2017. The Bears defeated the Browns 20-3. | Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

Matt Nagy endorsement of Jordan Howard as Bears feature RB comes without a catch

SHARE Matt Nagy endorsement of Jordan Howard as Bears feature RB comes without a catch
SHARE Matt Nagy endorsement of Jordan Howard as Bears feature RB comes without a catch

Running back Jordan Howard played it coy Tuesday when asked about recently deleted Bears pictures from his Instagram account that ignited a social-media brouhaha and accompanied trade rumors last week.

“Wasn’t nothing to it,” he said. “Just a story people made up.”

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Did he purposely remove the pictures?

“I don’t know. Did I?” Howard said. “You can go there now and see if they’re on there.”

Indeed they were, apparently ending an episode that sparked rumors that Howard might be traded to make room for a running back who better fits new coach Matt Nagy’s offense.

“[The Bears] told my agent they had no plans to trade me or anything like that,” Howard said. “So that’s comforting.”

Nagy confirmed as much, acknowledging that Howard would be the Bears’ featured running back in his offense — one of several direct answers by Nagy after Tuesday’s minicamp practice that John Fox would’ve fumbled, bumbled, misdirected and deflected, with a little condescension thrown in for good measure.

“Absolutely, yeah, [he’ll be the featured back],” Nagy said. “That’s the beauty of where we’re at. We’re very strong at that position. To have [Tarik] Cohen there, as well, you’re seeing all these teams . . . going with multiple backs. So to say a featured back? Yeah, he’s going to be the guy that lines up and gets the ball. But at the same time, we’re crazy if we use one back. That’s not gonna happen. We’re gonna use multiple backs.”

Howard has been a revelation since he was a fifth-round draft pick in 2016. He rushed for 1,313 yards (5.2-yard average) and six touchdowns as a rookie and 1,122 yards (4.1 average) and nine touchdowns last season. Still, those trade rumors made some sense because Howard’s poor production in the passing game wouldn’t make him an ideal fit for the diversified offense Nagy and Andy Reid ran with the Chiefs. Howard had 23 receptions for 125 yards (5.4 average) last season, with a pair of drops on potential touchdown plays.

“I feel like I can fit in pretty much [any] offense,” Howard said. “Yeah, I’ve had struggles receiving, but anytime people doubt me, they just push me to do better. That’s definitely one thing I want to improve on.”

Nagy tacitly acknowledged that pass receiving is not a strength of Howard’s game — yet another admission Fox would never come close to — but disputed the notion that it made Howard a bad fit for his offense.

“Every running back has their own strengths and weaknesses,” Nagy said. “There are some that are better as pass receivers. There are some that are better inside, tight zones and mid zones and outside zones. Jordan has his own way of running. Anything he does that’s a weakness, we’re gonna try to focus on that and try to get it better.”

Nagy is in his first season as a head coach at any level, but — with his record 0-0 — his flexibility is laudable. He didn’t promise he’d turn Howard into a great pass receiver. And if Howard doesn’t become one, Nagy will find a way to maximize his production. Around here, it’s a breath of fresh air that he wasn’t offended by the question.

“We’ve done a pretty good job of trying to fit what they do best within [the offense],” Nagy said. “If they struggle, for instance, at running inside with the tight zones, then we’ll try to run outside, and we’ll use more speed and their hands. If it’s vice versa, we’ll try to keep them away from that. We’ll try to move them around to do different things and stay away from any of their weaknesses.”

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