The Chicago Bears delivered their most impressive stretch of football seen in ages over the past 12 days, beating two division opponents in three games.
Doing something like that is hard enough. Doing it without their starting quarterback for one of them? That proves beyond a doubt how different this team has become. They’re more talented than they’ve been in years and they finally seem to have a head coach in Matt Nagy who is able to elevate them to play their best in big moments. It’s been a thrilling ride to 8-3 and now the team is in position to claim the division.
One guy who hasn’t been enjoying the fun as much as others is Jordan Howard. The former Pro Bowl running back just hasn’t found his groove this year. He’s yet to rush for over 100 yards in any game this season and is enduring the worst stretch of his career. He hasn’t averaged four yards or more per carry in a game since the trip down to Miami.
Thursday afternoon was his low point, rushing for 13 yards on seven carries. It was another glaring reminder that something is clearly off. The big question is what? Is it him or is it the blocking? Truth be told it’s what most people feared.
He’s not a good fit for the Matt Nagy offense.
Nagy isn’t the right offensive mind to maximize who Howard is
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Here’s the thing. Part of Howard being great over the past two seasons was heavily dependent on him being in an offense that wanted to feature him. Former head coach John Fox wanted to run the ball. That meant Howard would get steady doses of carries. That would allow him to find a rhythm and soon he’d start chewing up yards. When Nagy arrived, things changed.
He wants to run the offense through the quarterback. That means a pass-first attack. He holds true to the West Coast-style of throwing to get the lead and then running to keep it. That means the running backs will get carries, but in a more sporadic fashion during games. For a player like Howard who takes a steady dose of touches to get going? This is a problem.
In this type an offense, a back must be ready for his opportunities at all times because there’s no telling when they’ll come. He must be prepared to maximize those chances. For Howard, this doesn’t work. He’s not an explosive player who can do that. He’s a grinder who is at his best wearing a defense down over the course of a game.
He’s like an old stove. It takes him a bit more time than normal to heat up. For a new age offensive guy like Nagy, that won’t do. He doesn’t have the patience for something like that. Not with so many other weapons on the offense he needs to feed. It’s for this reason, painful as it is to consider, that Howard may not be long for the Bears roster beyond this year.