In the Week 3 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, Chicago Bears running back Jordan Howard had a memorable game for his courageous performance from the start of the game to the finish.
Howard played with through a shoulder sprain throughout the game and even needed to be helped up off the field by Bears medical staff twice. The performance should not come as a shock to anyone because the Bears starting running has demonstrated the will to fight the tough fight so far in his young career.
Back in 2016, general manager Ryan Pace used his fifth-round pick in the 2016 draft on Howard who was the starting running back for the University of Indiana.
He was overlooked by many because he lacked the next level speed that other running backs possessed such as first round draft pick Ezekiel Elliott who was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys. When the 2016 Bears season opened in Houston, Howard was ranked third on the Bears depth chart and saw very little playing time until the third game of the season against the Cowboys on the road.
With running backs Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey sidelined with injuries, he seized the most of his opportunity, as with his first rushing attempt of the game Howard ran for 36 yards to help set up the Bears first score of the game.
The next week, with both Carey and Langford ruled out, Howard received his first NFL start and recorded his first 100-yard rushing game as he finished with 111 yards rushing against the Detroit Lions and helped the Bears gain their first victory of 2016.
He would remain the starter for the remainder of the year and would eclipse at least 100 yards or more rushing in six of his 12 starts. At the end of the season, Howard would finish second in the NFL in rushing yards with 1313 yards with only Elliott having the most.
Although not the quickest running back in the NFL, the Bears rookie was still able to break off big runs because of his vision and patience to let blocks develop in front of him. Many running backs will look to cut back if they don’t like what they see or are too impatience to allow a block to develop.
Howard’s awareness allowed him to take what the defense gave him which in turn led him to average 5.21 yards per attempt and have at least one 20+ yard run in eight of his 13 starts.
With the 2017 season, there were high expectations for Howard, not only because of his performance in 2016 but because of what many believed to be one of the best offensive lines in all of football with the Bears offensive line.
Injuries through the first two games have plagued the Bears offensive line, but on Sunday they were aided by the return of All-Pro guard Kyle Long who helped the Bears running game.
Howard, who rushed for only 59 yards in his first two games, rushed for 75 yards in just the first half alone against the Steelers. In the second half, the Bears offense looked to Howard and rookie running back Tarik Cohen to help move the ball and wear down the Steelers offense.
The plan worked, as it wore down the Steelers defense on a 90+ degree day leading to the Bears winning in overtime on a four-play 76-yard touchdown drive. Howard who had played so hard the entire game, capped it off with rushing attempts of 18 and 19, with the ladder being the game-winning score for the Bears.
— Chicago Sports (@ChicagoSports1) September 24, 2017
After the game, there was much praise for Howard who had just an incredible game fighting through the heat and injury to be the difference maker in the game. His determination to stay in the game with a painful shoulder injury goes to show his mental makeup of a player and show why he has been able to prove so many wrong so far into his career.
With a history rich in great running backs, Howard is on track to add his name to that group with his performance so far in his young career.