PHILADELPHIA – Jordan Howard has never been much of a talker. He’s quiet, reserved, almost shy.
Until he takes the field, then he lets his game do all the talking, with hard-driving bursts into the line of scrimmage finding a hole and, when one doesn’t exist, creating his own.
“He’s a beast,” said right tackle Lane Johnson. “He runs hard. He’s always falling forward. He has a lot of power when he runs. Great pass protector. Doesn’t say a whole lot. He moves in silence. But he’s just a great back. He has done well for a long time.”
Howard, who just turned 27 on Nov. 2, has changed the dynamic of the Eagles’ running back room. So much so that it will be interesting to see what happens with snap counts and rushes when Miles Sanders comes off Injured Reserve, something that could happen as soon as the Eagles’ next home game, against the New Orleans Saints on Nov. 21
Howard will get at least one more opportunity to show he can be a vital part of the game plan when the Eagles play in Denver against the Broncos on Sunday (4:25 p.n. CBS).
“He tells me all the time, ‘I’m just going to run behind you,’ said let tackle Jordan Mailata. “I’m like, ‘Alright, I’ll do whatever I can to give you that hole.’
“Jordan is just a very straight runner, tough runner. The guy is ridiculous with the way he runs. When you have a guy on the team like that, it helps a lot with the run game as well. Credit to Jordan. I’m just blocking. He does all the rest.”
The Broncos’ run defense will provide a stiffer test than the two previous teams that saw Hoard run for 128 yards and three touchdowns after being elevated from the practice squad. He was added to the roster earlier this week when the Eagles released cornerback Mac McCain.
The Eagles had hoped McCain would clear waivers so they could add him to the practice squad, but the Broncos claimed him.
The Chargers and Lions, who Howard ran through more than once the last two weeks, have two of the worst run defenses in the league. The Broncos are in the top 10, so Howard, who had 17 carries against the Chargers, but may not come close to that this week.
Still, it would be surprising if the Eagles completely abandon the run.
“I think the most important thing is putting respect on our name that we can run the ball,” said Mailata. “That in itself will protect everything – the pass game, the play-action game, the screen game. I think we’re doing a great job knowing our assignments and trying to dominate the next guy opposing us. It helps us a lot with that aspect of the game, just protecting our game plan.”
As the Eagles continue to spend draft collateral on the receiver position – using five picks in the last three years to bring in DeVonta Smith, Jalen Reagor, John Hightower, Quez Watkins, and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside - the Broncos found an undrafted gem in Tim Patrick, a 6-4, 210-pound pass-catcher from BYU.
Patrick entered the league in 2018, he has 124 catches for 1,784 yards and 11 touchdowns in three-plus seasons, including 34 for 509 (15.0 ypc) and four scores this year.
In case you didn’t know, Ronald Darby is one of Denver’s starting corners. The starting CB on the Eagled’ 2017 Super Bowl championship team, he’s 27 now, but it sure feels like he’s been in the league for 15 years.
The Broncos will have their bye next week after hosting the Eagles.
"We just need to empty the tank these next five days, knowing that the bye week's right around the corner, and hit the bye going into it 6-4,” said safety Justin Simmons. “That's what's important.”
A day after having six players miss practice, there wasn’t a single player who did not practice at least in some capacity on Thursday.
Four players were limited: J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Avonte Maddox (knee), Darius Slay (hamstring), and Josh Sweat (concussion).
The fact that Maddox and Slay both held news conferences with writers the past two days.
Maddox said on Thursday that he would play on Sunday.
On Wednesday, Slay said he would push to play against the Broncos.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I kind of hit my knee three times on the same play. They did a crack toss, and I was running through, and my knee hit Keenan Allen on the knee, straight on. Then when I hit Austin (Ekeler), I kneed him on the hip. Then when I was taking him to the ground, I kneed the ground, so I was out for a minute.” – Eagles CB Avonte Maddox when he had to leave last week’s game against the Chargers with a knee injury before returning later.
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.