Read Options: Should you worry about Jordan Howard’s drops?

SHARE Read Options: Should you worry about Jordan Howard’s drops?
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Bears running back Jordan Howard made the Pro Bowl his rookie year. (AP)

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.

The Bears’ receivers weren’t the only ones taking part in the drop party in the loss to the Titans. Rookie running back Jordan Howard had a big one, too.

And his is more important to consider.

For all the scrutiny that Josh Bellamy and Deonte Thompson have gotten over their drops of would-be game-tying touchdowns, they still are the Bears’ fifth and sixth receivers.

If the Bears are at full strength, Bellamy and Thompson don’t matter as much. Their value would be on special teams, where Bellamy excels as a gunner and Thompson handles kickoff returns.

The Bears only are counting on them to make plays right now because Alshon Jeffery is suspended, Kevin White is on injured reserve and Eddie Royal is limited by a nagging toe injury.

Howard means more to the Bears this year and beyond. He’s part of their young core of players. Neither Bellamy nor Thompson is a lock for next year’s roster. Howard is expected to be the Bears’ No. 1 back.

In the first quarter against the Titans, Howard dropped a pass at the seven-yard line in the right flat on a play-action play. If he makes the catch, he strolls into the end zone untouched.

The Bears were able to make up for Howard’s gaffe on the next play when quarterback Matt Barkley threw a seven-yard score to tight end Daniel Brown.

But Howard’s drop shouldn’t be overlooked because of that touchdown or what happened later with Bellamy, Thompson and other receivers.

The drop was part of a trend that started a week earlier in the Bears’ loss to the Giants. Howard was targeted eight times that game, but only made one catch for 22 yards.

“The common denominator for me on the drops is just not looking the ball all the way in,” Howard said. “[It’s] just trying to turn and run before I have it fully.”

It’s easy to forgive the rookie. Howard has been better than good this season after the Bears drafted him in the fifth round. He is on pace to surpass 1,000 rushing yards. His coaches also said earlier this season that his pass-catching skills have been a pleasant surprise. Howard has 22 catches for 242 yards and a touchdown.

But Howard needs to prove over the final five games that he can get over his case of the drops. He has to respond.

Running back Jeremy Langford had his problems with drops last year during his rookie season, too. He said then that he was thinking too much about them.

If Howard is a true No. 1 back, he won’t let the same happen.

“You might catch a thousand passes at practice but in a game, if you just take your eye off the ball, you might drop it or something like that,” Howard said. “You’ve got to lock in more.”

***

Veteran backup guards Ted Larsen and Eric Kush aren’t getting enough credit for what they’ve done in their two starts together in place of Kyle Long and Josh Sitton.

In Week 9, the Bears ran for 158 yards against the top-rated Vikings defense. Against the Titans, Barkley wasn’t sacked on 54 pass attempts.

That’s quality depth.

The Bears might not have it in many areas because of their youth movement, but general manager Ryan Pace found it for the offensive line.

***

It’s time to see what rookie Deiondre’ Hall can do. Again. The Bears are in desperate need of a playmaker or two in the secondary, and that could be Hall, who hasn’t played since Week 4.

One of the Bears’ three fourth-round picks, Hall had an interception and three pass breakups in the first four games before severely spraining his right ankle in practice.

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