Jordan Howard knew for a month he would land with Eagles

Ed Kracz

Jordan Howard knew for about month that he would probably be traded to the Eagles. His agent told him that he was having conversations with the team about a deal.

The trade happened last week, and on Monday the Eagles’ new addition at running back met with reporters at the team’s training facility in South Philly.

“I wasn’t really surprised,” said Howard, who will wear the No. 24. “I knew something was going to happen, I just didn’t know when, and I’m just finally relieved because I was getting tired of everybody hitting me up about, ‘Are you getting traded?’ and, ‘How do you feel about it?’ so I was definitely relieved.”

That it took so long to consummate a deal could possibly mean that Howard was Howie Roseman’s plan B. Perhaps the Eagles’ executive vice president of football operations had his sights set on Tevin Coleman or Mark Ingram, a pair of free agents that were relatively cheap but may have still been out of what Roseman wanted to pay either one.

Or maybe it was the compensation that took some time to iron out, though the Eagles and Bears ultimately settled on just a sixth-round draft pick in 2020 for Howard, a pick that could flex to a fifth-round choice.

Either way, Howard is now with the Eagles and he appears to be tailor-made for their needs, a punishing back capable of bulling for first downs in short-yardage situations, or down on the goal line.

Howard is no stranger to the end zone, either, having scored nine rushing touchdowns in each of the past two seasons and has 24 rushing scores since entering the league three years ago as a fifth-round draft pick out of the University of Indiana.

“I’d describe my playing style as rugged, physical,” said Howard. “I definitely like setting the tone. I feel like I’m a blue-collar player and I feel like this is a blue-collar city.”

Howard ran for a Chicago Bears rookie record of 1,313 yards in 2016, averaging 5.2 yards per carry. He was a teammate of Eagles receiver Alshon Jeffery then, too, and the two spend Sunday night together.

His yards per carry have dropped since his rookie season, however, giving some “twitter experts” cause for concern.

Howard isn’t concerned about it. Nor, it would seem, are the Eagles.

“A lot of teams (my rookie year) didn’t know me, didn’t scout me, or prepare for me very well,” said Howard. “Then we had options on the outside in my second year, receivers, and we had a lot of receiver injuries, so they just loaded the box up.”

As for last year, when his yards per carry average dipped to 3.7, he could not have cared less, especially since the Bears won the NFC North. Chicago went 4-1 over its final five games to win the division, and during those games Howard averaged 4.5 yards per carry and ran for more than 100 yards twice.

“My rookie season I had a lot of success, but we only won three games, so that wasn’t much fun at all,” he said. “Since then, last year was probably the most fun I had since I’ve been in the league.”

Howard is one of only four running backs with 2,000-plus rushing yards since 2017 with 2,057, joining Todd Gurley (2,556), Zeke Elliott (2,417), and Kareem Hunt (2,151). He is one of just two running backs with nine-plus rushing touchdowns in each of the last two seasons. Gurley is the other one.

Howard’s 18 rushing touchdowns since 2017 are tied for the third-most, behind Gurley (30) and Alvin Kamara (22).

Pass catching is something Howard said he has worked on the past two seasons.

“My first season I struggled to catch the ball, I admit that,” said Howard, who has 72 catches for 568 yards and one TD in his three seasons. “But last year I worked on it a lot, didn’t drop any passes, but just wasn’t really featured. I don’t really know why, but it’s not my job to worry about it.”

Nor is Howard worried about his contract, which expires at the end of the 2019 season. He said he wants to focus on the season and help the Eagles win games, and leave the contract stuff to his agent.

One worry Howard won’t have is playing the Eagles, a team that he struggled against in two meetings.

“I just came from a great defense and now I’m coming to another great defense, so definitely glad I won’t be playing against the Eagles because I haven’t had any success against them,” he said.

Asked why, Howard said: “First of all the D line, they’re menacing, just some dogs, you can’t even get past them to get to the rest of the defense.”