Philadelphia Eagles: Jordan Howard just runs better in midnight green

Jordan Howard needs the Philadelphia Eagles as much as the Philadelphia Eagles need Jordan Howard.

When the Philadelphia Eagles acquired Jordan Howard from the Chicago Bears for a sixth-round pick, it felt like an absolute steal.

Measuring in at an imposing 6-foot, 224 pounds, the then-24-year-old had just strung together three straight 900-plus yard rushing seasons, including a 1,300-yard performance as a rookie that accounted for the second-most yards on the ground of any back in the league that season behind only Ezekiel Elliott.

With LeGarrette Blount long gone, Jay Ajayi’s career potentially over, and the Birds’ 2018 lead rusher, Josh Adams, a late-season benching for poor play, the idea of adding a legitimately talented youngster who can power through the offensive line and fight for 4.3 yards in a cloud of dust was enough to raise the roof and declare the rushing game finally fixed.

Remember, if you will, that the Eagles averaged the third-most rushing yards per game in 2017, which is a big reason why they were able to get to the Super Bowl and finally win the big one behind the arm of a backup quarterback against Tom Brady.

While he failed to earn a start through the team’s first five games of the season, in large part because of the addition of universally beloved second-round pick Miles Sanders, Howard averaged 15 rushing attempts per game from Week 3-9, while picking up an average of 66 yards on the ground and seven as a receiver out of the backfield.

Just for context, the Eagles’ second-leading rusher in 2020 is Carson Wentz, and they don’t have a single running back not named Sanders averaging more than four carries per game.

Though Howard’s season didn’t end quite as planned, as he was effectively held out of action for the remainder of the season due to a nagging shoulder injury, few expected it to affect his free agency prospects one way or another. Whether in South Philly or elsewhere, Howard would find a new home on a long-term contract to either share snaps as a rough and tumble change of pace back or as the leading rusher once more.

That sort of happened.

After waiting in the wings for a new deal through the first week or so of free agency, Howard agreed to a two-year, $9.75 million deal to presumably serve as the new lead back for the Miami Dolphins. In theory, the idea tracked, as new head coach Brian Flores is a disciple of Bill Belichick, and the hoodied one has had a ton of success historically with bigger backs like Blount. Assuming he could beat out 2019 seventh-round pick Myles Gaskin and speedy San Francisco castoff Matt Breida, there was little reason to assume Howard wouldn’t be able to bounce back for another 1,000-ish yard season while playing a few miles away from the Atlantic Ocean.

*sigh* yeah, that didn’t happen.

Despite starting the Dolphins’ first two games of the season, Howard was effectively used as a part-time player, averaging 18 carries through the first four games of the season for 14 yards total. Yeah, you read that correctly; Howard hasn’t had a single game with double-digit rushing yards and is averaging .7 yards per carry. To add insult to injury, the Dolphins opted to outright inactivate Howard for Week 5 as a healthy scratch – leading to many wondering if Miami would outright cut the former Pro Bowler before month’s end.

If that’s the case, maybe Howie Roseman should make a familiar call down to 347 Don Shula Drive and see if he can make another deal for the Gardendale native.

Now sure, would it be a tad embarrassing to surrender another draft pick, even if it’s only a seventh-rounder, for Howard after explicitly letting him walk a few months back? Maybe so, but when has that stopped the Eagles from bringing back a familiar face in the past? The Eagles have brought back Ajayi for a bizarre three-game stretch in 2019, traded for DeSean Jackson after half a decade apart, and have signed and released Jordan Matthews more times than I’m sure they’d like to admit. If Howard can finally provide parody to the offensive game plan, why not pull the trigger?

Furthermore, it’s not like the Eagles value late-round draft picks all that highly anyway, as they just allowed Casey Toohill to test waivers and had their bluff called by the Washington Football team, who opted to claim the ex-Stanford seventh-round pick.

Yup, the Eagles just lost to a football team without a name for the second time this season.

Factor in Miles Sanders’ nagging hamstring injury that has cost him snaps, series, and even a game through the first five weeks of the season, and it’s seriously worth wondering if the Eagles are playing with fire by opting to give him 70-plus percent of their offensive snaps per game.

When news broke that Le’Veon Bell was outright released by the New York Jets, it drew quite a few eyes from eager fans in the 215. Though Doug Pederson quickly dashed the idea that his team would be in the market for the supremely talented castoff, it sure didn’t take long for his mentor, Andy Reid, to sign up Bell to serve as a perfect complementary piece next to ultra-talented youngster Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Why? Because Big Red knows you can’t expect a single running back to take on that big of a workload in 2020 without a reliable partner in crime. If the Philadelphia Eagles are serious about contending for the brutally bad NFC East this season, they should seriously consider adding a new rusher to their backfield, even if said new rusher is an old friend who remains incredibly popular in the locker room by his Jordan-hungry ex-teammates.