Philadelphia Eagles: Jordan Howard’s fall from grace is astounding

Could Howard’s second tenure with the Philadelphia Eagles be his last as a pro?

There was a time in the not too distant past when Jordan Howard was considered a plus asset.

I know, if you just started watching football this year, you’d surely think I’m crazy based on how his season has turned out, but it’s true. I mean, come on, the Philadelphia Eagles quite literally traded a sixth-round pick to acquire the UAB/Indiana rusher before the 2019 NFL season.

Granted, flipping a sixth-round pick for a former fifth-rounder a year removed from two 1,000-plus yard seasons isn’t exactly a ‘King’s Ransom’ but considering Howard was entering the final year of his rookie contract with an all but guaranteed contract extension looming just over the horizon, it felt justified. Assuming he had a singular season akin to the one-two punch Philly deployed all the way to the Super Bowl in 2017, there was justifiable candor that Howard could eventually join Ezekiel Elliott and Saquon Barkley as the best – and highest-paid – rushers in the NFC.

Things obviously didn’t break that way, but that was the idea at the time.

Whether due to a string of injuries including a season-ending shoulder stinger that left the then 25-year-old without “strength in his shoulder” or the addition/emergence of second-round pick Miles Sanders as a legit number one back, but it became apparent rather quickly when the Eagles season came to a close that Howard wouldn’t be back in 2020.

But hey, even if the Eagles opted against retaining Howard to form a USC-esque thunder and lightning rushing attack, that didn’t mean his career was over. Free agency opened up, and Howard was swiftly snatched up by the Miami Dolphins on a respectable two-year, $9.75 million deal.

Surely Howard would be able to prove Howie Roseman and company wrong now, right? It sure looked that way… until 2020 draft weekend.

Once again, Howard found himself a cruel victim of the numbers game after his new club not only drafted a dynamic runner in Navy’s Malcolm Perry – who later switched positions to wide receiver – but also traded to acquire Matt Breida. Though Howard did start his first two contests with the Dolphins, and curiously enough again in Week 9, he was effectively a non-factor in Brian Flores‘ offense – amassing only 33 yards on 28 carries split over five games of action.

While some hoped the team would ship the power rusher out at the trade deadline for something like a conditional seventh-round pick, a deal never materialized, and Miami opted to release Howard outright, making him a free agent once more after clearing waivers.

And now… nothing.

Sure, Howard did return to the Eagles, initially on their practice squad before being elevated to the active roster on December 5th, but he’s been relegated to a deep bench, fourth rusher role – appearing in one game wearing Will Parks/Wendell Smallwood‘s old number 28 where he picked up 19 yards on four carries.

Assuming Howard doesn’t suddenly come alive in the Eagles’ final three games of the season, this will go down as one of the worst seasons imaginable for a player signed to a multi-year deal that offseason. Even if Howard is able to latch on somewhere next season, either in Philly or elsewhere, it’s clear his days as an unquestioned number one back are long over both now and moving forward.

So what gives? How did Howard go from being a 1,300-yard rusher as a rookie to a player set to record less than 100 rushing yards in 2020 with his future very much up in the air?

Honestly, your guess is as good as mine.

Per his own admissions, Howard’s shoulder is 100 percent healthy, and his four rushes against the Green Bay Packers – a team he dropped 87 yards on a year earlier – didn’t look particularly belabored or awkward. If Howard was given 20 carries in a game, would he once again average 4.2 yards per carry, or would his body/game simply crumble under the expansive workload?

That, my friends, is the $20 question and one I’m afraid we’ll never get an answer to.

No, baring a crazy Carlos Hyde-style re-emergence playing in the right system at the right time, it looks like Jordan Howard’s professional career will be one defined by ‘what ifs,’ not prolific performances. Though he flashed at times for the Chicago Bears, the Miami Dolphins, and the Philadelphia Eagles, there’s clearly a reason why all three teams moved on from him prematurely and a reason why he’s now filling a 2019 Jay Ajayi-esque role after playing like 2016 Jay Ajayi not all that long ago. *sigh* chalk it up to the mystery of football, I guess.