The Chicago Bears last week signed free-agent DL Jaye Howard, a five-year NFL veteran who spent the last four seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs.
From 2014-2015, Howard played in all 32 games for the Chiefs, yet he missed eight games in 2016 due to a hip injury that required surgery. Howard passed his physical with the Bears, so clearly the hip injury is not a team concern.
Howard projects as a potential starter at 5-technique alongside Akiem Hicks, yet what do the Bears have in their new interior defender?
I broke down All-22 game film of Howard over the past two seasons. Here's what I found.
This is a run play away from Howard. The backside offensive tackle will attempt a reach block. Notice Howard already angling his body away from the OT.
Howard darts inside the reach block and penetrates into the backfield.
Howard closes and makes the tackle for a 1-yard loss.
On this red zone snap, the Ravens will attempt to run off Howard's outside shoulder. He is double-teamed at the snap, yet he maintains leverage and works down the line away from the inside blocker.
The offensive tackle tries to peel off for the linebacker but Howard extends his arms and lifts the OT off his feet.
Howard disposes of the OT and swallows up the ball carrier, all while being tackled from behind by the guard. This play demonstrates Howard's immense phone-booth power.
In a one-on-one situation, Howard rushes the outside shoulder of the left guard, using his arms to maintain separation.
Howard dips his shoulder and drives the guard (green) onto his backside.
Howard bursts inside and takes down the QB for the sack. Once again, Howard's brute strength is the crux of another quality snap.
The Chargers will run right at Howard, who is double-teamed at the snap.
Howard loses leverage immediately and the OT turns him away from the play, leaving a gaping hole off-tackle.
Howard is turned all the way around and driven backward to the point where he cuts off the weak-side linebacker. This is not a quality snap from Howard, although these types of plays are not all that common.
The Chargers will attempt an off-tackle run toward the far hash. Notice Howard has already dipped his shoulder away from the left guard as he knifes inside.
Howard is able to get in front of the play, forcing the running back to cut back inside, where Howard has help.
The RB cuts right into the waiting arms of the weak-side defensive end, resulting in a loss of yards. Howard's ability to quickly gain inside leverage by crossing the face of the offensive linemen allows him to completely disrupt this run play.
This is a play-action pass by the Broncos. Howard, in a one-on-one with the left guard, uses a quick swim and swat at the snap, creating separation.
The RB attempts a chip block in support of the LG but Howard immediately lift him off his feet with a pure bull rush, driving both blockers backward. This creates a rush lane for the DE, who is about to swing behind Howard.
The OT sees the DE swing inside and turns away from Howard, who extends his arms and immediately sends the blocker off his feet. QB Peyton Manning is flushed out of the pocket.
Howard closes on Manning and forces the fumble, which the Broncos are lucky to recover. Howard again displays his power on this snap, as well as good hand and footwork off the ball, which is what makes this cross-stunt so successful.
Howard is double-team at the snap, yet notice his body positioning. His hips are sunk and he's positioned his legs to drive toward the blockers, thus sustaining leverage.
The right tackle begins to peel off for the linebacker and Howard takes advantage by shooting upfield through the recently vacated space.
Howard's penetration forces the ball carrier to cut back. Howard recognizes the cutback and stops in his tracks.
Howard changes directions and accelerates into the ball carrier, taking him down after a short gain.
Howard was used primarily in run situations for the Chiefs. He saw plenty of pass-rush snaps but clearly Kansas City's coaching staff felt Howard's best value was on first and second down.
As a run defender, he has the ability to two-gap at the point of attack, which stands out on film. He will occasionally lose the leverage battle but when he anchors, he's hard to move.
What is most impressive about Howard is his feel when being double-teamed. He's often able to leverage away from the primary blocker and then, when he feels the secondary blocker peel off for the linebacker, he either shoots the gap or uses his brute strength to knock the secondary blocker off his path. That instinctive level of play is crucial for 5-techniques tasked with occupying double-teams.
As a pass rusher, Howard doesn't bring much burst off the ball and he's often the last defender out of his stance. Yet he has active hands and top-tier short-area power, which we saw multiple times during this film session.
He'll never contribute 10-plus sacks but Howard is an opportunistic pass rusher who can push the pocket.
The Bears pursued Howard, who is only 28, the past two off-seasons and paid him well for 2017. After my film study, it's easy to see why GM Ryan Pace was relentless in his pursuit of Howard, who should be a quality starting upgrade along the interior of Chicago's defensive line.