The Chicago Bears want to be a run-first offense in 2016, which is why the team invested a fifth-round pick in this year's draft on former Indiana RB Jordan Howard.
Howard (6-1, 230) is a bruising ball carrier who rushed for 1,213 yards and 9 TDs last year, despite playing in just nine contests.
The Bears will use Howard to complement incumbent starter Jeremy Langford, a speedier, shiftier running back. Yet what exactly will Howard bring to Chicago's backfield?
In order to answer that question, I broke down film of Howard from two Big Ten contests last year. Here's what I found.
-0:22, 2nd and 2, Howard hit 5 yards before the first-down marker, churns legs and carries two defenders a full seven yards. 1st down run.
-0:29, stretch run right, Howard uses one-cut and bursts up-field, finds hole, runs through arm tackle, finishes with a big hit on the safety after a 17-yard gain.
-0:48, 3rd and 3, Howard hit 2 yards short of the first down, trucks the linebacker and puts him on his back, then breaks loose and dives forward, hitting the ground 7 yards past the first-down marker.
-1:14, stretch run left, Howard initially hit at the line of scrimmage, defender wraps up his ankle but Howard keeps churning, breaks free and is hit by LB, he then carries the LB 8 more yards before finally hitting the turf.
-1:25, one cut on zone run, spins free of first contact and finishes with a boom. 11-yard gain. Great vision and agility.
-1:34, 4th and 1, first contact at the 46, Howard carries two defenders another 3 yards.
-2:28, pass play, Howard stands in and picks up the blitzing middle linebacker.
-2:35, gut run, both ILBs and the SS flood the middle, Howard makes a small cut just before the line of scrimmage, which forces the all three defenders in one direction, he then cuts back and flies into the second level. Drags safety five yards before going down. Foot quickness, awareness and agility all on display.
-3:53, blitz pickup on the middle linebacker, QB stays clean.
-4:00, hits hole up the middle, puts move on safety, safeties jock can be seen at the 12-yard line.
-4:31, counter play, two very good cuts, picks up 15 yards. Great field vision and utilization of blocks.
-4:42, sweep left, Howard is patient waits for blocks to develop, hits corner and CB is there but he wants nothing to do with the tackle, Howard shoves his face into the dirt and picks up 10 yards.
-5:20, 3rd and 2, first contact made a yard short of the marker, Howard sinks hips and drives legs, pushes past the first-down maker, takes four Wolverines to bring him down.
-5:36, counter play, Howard shows exceptional patience and works behind his two lead blockers, hits hole once it opens, he then sets up his second-level block and cuts behind it for the touchdown. Very impressive run here.
vs. Michigan State
-0:51, steps up in pass protection, reacts late to the blitzing linebacker but gets enough of a piece of him to keep the QB clean.
-1:05, pistol draw, RT is driven into the running lane, Howard takes handoff and immediately sidesteps the RT and defender, bursts into hole and picks up 5 yards. Good agility.
-1:10, huge hole, Howard cuts through to the second level, puts a sick move on the safety, fumbles ball after 40-yard run. Breakaway speed is lacking.
-3:09, shovel pass, hits Howard’s hands and falls to the ground. Rock-like attempt.
In the Michigan contest, Howard carried 35 times for 238 yards. At the time, the Wolverines were ranked second in the nation in run defense and had not allowed a 100-yard rusher all season, so that film is legit.
Howard is a downhill ball carrier who puts power behind his pads. He does not shy away from contact and delivers as much punishment as defenders. On numerous snaps in these two games, he puts a defender on his back and carries him across the first-down marker.
Of all the plays analyzed here, he failed to fall forward only three times, all three of which came after being hit in the backfield. Once he gets a head of steam, he's nearly impossible to stop in his tracks, which is going to make him a serious weapon for the Bears in short-yardage and goal-line situations. Howard will also be a very valuable asset once the cold weather hits Chicago, as his Mack Truck running style is going to make life miserable for opposing defenses in the frigid wind of Soldier Field in December.
On film, Howard shows a quick first cut and very good awareness on zone and stretch runs. His field vision allows him to find and hit the correct hole nearly every snap. Once at the second level, he's a load to bring down and late in games, you can see that defenders want nothing to do with him.
Despite being a bowling-ball runner, Howard is light on his feet and has the ability to make defenders miss in open space, something you don't often see from ball carriers with his girth.
Howard wasn't asked to pass block very often, nor did he catch many passes in college, either at UAB or Indiana. He does show decent awareness in pass pro on film but it's clear he's a work in progress in both areas.
As a between-the-tackles complement to Langford, the Bears may have found the perfect back in Howard. While Langford has elite speed and quickness, Howard brings a physical element to Chicago's backfield the team hasn't seen since Cedric Benson in 2006.
If the Michigan film is any indication, Howard is going to have a long and productive career in the NFL, assuming he stays healthy.null