Jordan Howard is looking to make the transition from one-year wonder to top-of-the-league running back.
“I’m definitely trying to be the No. 1 rusher in the league this year,” Howard told the Chicago Tribune on Wednesday, just a few months after finishing about 300 yards behind fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliott for the rushing title in 2016.
While this might sound crazy to some, Howard has a legitimate chance at the crown this year. The Bears have the makings of a top 10 offensive line while an uncertain situation at quarterback could lend itself to more handoffs. Last season, Chicago was 25th in rushing attempts, 17th in rushing yards and 22nd in rushing touchdowns, which are all numbers the staff will look to improve on given how the strength of their team has developed.
What makes Howard’s rookie season compared to Elliott all the more impressive is that he completed it with significantly fewer carries. Elliott averaged almost five more touches per game (70 more carries overall) in an offense specifically designed for his running abilities. By the time Howard caught fire and started getting significant touches around late October, the Bears‘ offense was so one-dimensional that he was immediately perceived as the No. 1 option by opposing defenses.
Any creativity on the part of Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains should take this from a last-resort ground game to a team that can begin to take significant pressure off its quarterbacks by setting Howard free.
That sounds like a way to beat Elliott at his own game.