Three things are for sure in life: death, taxes, and a great Chicago Bears running back. If you asked me on March 2nd, 2018, who will be the future stars on offense for the Chicago Bears, my answers would be quarterback Mitch Trubisky and running back Jordan Howard. Bears fans, myself included, saw a 23-year-old running back who ran for his second straight 1,000-yard season, carrying a miserable offense on his back which has now taken that next step into becoming an elite running back with a new offensive-minded head coach. Then March 3rd happened. The rumor coming from NBC Sports Chicago’s John Mullin reported that the Bears and Dolphins discussed a trade that would involve Jordan Howard and Jarvis Landry. Everything changed from then on. Bears fans were putting him in the same discussion as Gale Sayers, Walter Payton, and Matt Forte. Jordan Howard was our guy going around the media car wash and putting his neck out on the line, telling everybody that the Bears were going to be in the 2018 playoffs. The trade rumors hit, and people asked the questions “Would Howard fit in Nagy’s offense?” or “Do the Bears believe in Howard?” 2018 not only was a big year for Mitch Trubisky, it became a huge year for Jordan Howard.
Howard not fitting into the Nagy system became obvious quickly, as he failed to reach the 1,000 yard mark, and he only averaged 58.4 yards per game. You even noticed watching the game that most of the time, when the ball was handed to Howard, the Bears lost momentum, slowing the game down for an offense that drove on tempo and momentum. With the exception of a few games, Howard could never gain any traction during the season. He was subbed out frequently for Taquan Mizzell, and the offense had a better flow with Tarik Cohen on the field and Howard on the bench. Nagy promised later in the season that Jordan Howard would get more touches and have more success, but the eyes and the numbers never lie. Matt Nagy needs a running back that’s a twitchy runner like Tarik Cohen and running back with dependable hands like Kareem Hunt. The eyes tell you that Howard isn’t a running back that’s going to hit the spin move and juke you out of your shoes like Cohen, and with only having 145 receiving yards, Howard wasn’t someone Trubisky and Nagy can rely on in the passing game.
Where do the Bears look now?
The Jordan Howard trade became inevitable when, at the NFL Combine, Adam Schefter reported that multiple teams approached the Bears on the availability of Jordan Howard and discussions were ongoing. This offseason, the Bears created cap space by reconstructing the contracts of Kyle Long, Eddie Goldman, and Khalil Mack. Bears fans expected GM Ryan Pace to use some of that $22 million in cap space to go out and get an elite running back in Le’Veon Bell, but after Bell signed with the Jets, it forced the Bears to look towards the draft, where I believe there will be three running backs available that can be franchise running backs:
1. Darrell Henderson, Memphis:
One of the most exciting players in the draft. Darrell Henderson is a running back that can stun defenders, making them completely whiff when trying to tackle him. Henderson has explosive speed with a second gear that makes him blow past the second level, explosive cuts, and solid hands which led him to 295 receiving yards and 15.5 yards per reception. He is a complete player, and Ryan Pace may have to be aggressive once again to get a Tiger from Memphis.
2. Miles Sanders, Penn State:
Photo courtesy of centredailey.com
Sanders came into the combine as one of the most underrated running backs, mainly because he spent a couple of years behind one of the best running back prospects of all time. How would Sanders respond to that? Simply put, he walked into the NFL combine and emerged as one of the best running backs in the draft. Sanders shows a perfect balance of strength and shiftiness. I didn’t see enough from Sanders as a receiver, but strictly as a runner, he makes his living between the tackles. Footwork, agility, and a second gear speed like Henderson could make Miles Sanders as one of those late round steals of the 2019 draft.
3. Justice Hill, Oklahoma State:
Justice Hill is a running back that every team is looking for. Hill was a superstar at the Combine with his 4.40 in the 40-yard dash and his 40” vertical jump. Hill is dangerous in space, consistently making defenders miss with his fluidity and incredible balance. Also, he can be most effective in the screen game. Hill gets compared to Reggie Bush, which isn’t insulting, but with Matt Nagy calling the shots, a good comparison to his skills is Saints dual-threat back Alvin Kamara.
You might ask “Why trade a 24-year-old Jordan Howard?” Simple. He’s entering the last year of his contract, and if the trade rumors are true, the Bears are not going to invest long-term guaranteed money in Howard. The Bears are walking into the draft with only 5 draft picks because of the Mack trade. The timing of a Jordan Howard trade is perfect to get the draft picks that are needed, and the Bears will have an opportunity to draft a running back that they can invest in who fits Matt Nagy’s offense.