Philadelphia Eagles: Don’t count out Jordan Howard just yet

And starting at running back for the Philadelphia EaglesJordan Howard.

Wait, what?

That’s right, while many a member of Eagles Nation tuned into the team’s first preseason game in two years to see the pride of Penn State, Miles Sanders, put in work against a stout Pittsburgh Steelers front, they were instead treated to a showcase of his former platoonmate Jordan Howard, who was largely considered a longshot even make the team let alone start a game.

Have we been wrong about the pride of UAB all summer long, or was this simply a chance for the eldest member of the Philadelphia Eagles’ running backs room to get a few reps with the top guys before looking for work elsewhere next month? Do we have a competition on our hands?

Hey Philadelphia Eagles, watch Jordan Howard vs. Kerryon Johnson closely.

When the Philadelphia Eagles claimed former second-round pick Kerryon Johnson off of waiver, it couldn’t have been a good sign for Jordan Howard.

Measuring in at 5-foot-11, 211 pounds, Johnson is a powerful, straight-ahead runner who finished out the second-highest pass-blocking grade of any eligible running back last season, according to PFF.

Considering the Eagles’ issues with slowing down the pass rush last season, securing a player with Johnson’s pedigree felt like a pretty darn easy call, especially since the team didn’t have to surrender a single thing to get the deal done.

But do you know who has actually maintained the best pass blocking grade of any running back in the NFL since the 2017 season? Yeah, that’d be Jordan Howard, who delivered an absolutely punishing chop on Robert Spillane that got Ross Tucker out of his mind on the first drive.

Folks, I think we are in for a fun battle of wills.

While neither player was particularly dominant in their preseason debut, as, in a stroke of irony, the Eagles really didn’t try too hard to establish the run, Howard’s early game blocking helped to edge him ahead of Johnson, who surely didn’t register to causal watchers channel surfing between the Birds and Sixers. To Johnson’s credit, he did record the team’s lone double-digit run of the game, a slip-turned-10 yarder midway through the second quarter, but that play came on second-and-15, and the drive was ultimately halted by a Jamir Jones sack on third-and-5.

Do you know who wasn’t too helpful on that play? That would be Johnson Joe Flacco, as he stepped up in the pocket without running for additional yardage and was brought down as a result. Still, Johnson was the safety valve option on that particular play, and he didn’t exactly earn Flacco’s attention despite being the closest player to the quarterback geographically.

In a competition that could come down to a handful of plays split out over three preseason games and a pair of joint practices, Howard’s first quarter suplex may serve as the only gold star play either rusher commits to tape this summer.

Could that be enough to earn a roster spot, or will Johnson’s age prove more valuable than Howard’s experience?

As crazy as it sounds considering his horrorshow of a 2020 season, Jordan Howard is only two seasons removed from being one of the better power rushers in the NFL. While his ceiling may have been altered ever so slightly by a brutal shoulder injury that cost him the better part of a half-season, Howard’s floor is still that of a solid pocket pusher, with an ability to put his 6-foot, 224-pound frame to good use as a quarterback’s last line of defense. Assuming the Philadelphia Eagles are looking to commit a roster spot to a personal quarterback protector with a downhill running style, Howard’s unique gifts may keep him in the competition right down to the end, even if Kerryon Johnson ultimately wins out in the end.