Will New NFL Helmet Rule Impact Jordan Howard?

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 24: Jordan Howard
CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 24: Jordan Howard /

Could the new NFL helmet rule decrease Jordan Howard’s effectiveness?

The  NFL owners passed a potentially monumental rule by disallowing any type of contact initiation with the helmet. The NFL has been heading down this road for some time between the defenseless receiver rule and the helmet to helmet rule, so it shouldn’t be shocking that this rule surfaced.

The rule will make an impact, no doubt. It could significantly change the way the game is played and players were not too pleased about it.

This will affect defensive players at an obvious level. It will be almost impossible to police this rule in the trenches, so it’s hard to imagine this rule altering play at the line of scrimmage. It won’t change the way quarterbacks or wide receivers play, but there is another significant impact on the game- the position of running back.

There are two types of running backs-elusive backs and power backs. For the elusive back that avoids contact, there is no reason to think this rule will sway how they play too much. But the backs that use power, the backs like Jordan Howard, that’s an entirely different story.

Howard’s biggest attribute as a runner is his patience. Howard waits for the hole to develop and then slices through it, which is why he is able to eat up, 4, 5, 6, even 7 yards a carry on interior runs on a regular basis, but one thing Howard isn’t afraid to do is lower his shoulder when necessary and gain a couple extra yards when the situation calls for it.

Watch the video in the above tweet, there is no indication yet as to whether or not a run like this will be a penalty in the future but based on the letter of the rule, it certainly seems like this would be penalized.

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This is a major problem for Howard. This is the type of rule that can turn Howard from a 4.5 yard per carry back to a 3.9 one. It could be the difference from being a productive back to a pedestrian one.

The NFL needs to give the fans (and even the teams) a better idea as to how this rule is going to be called because it will greatly affect how running backs can drive in short yardage situations and it can greatly impact players like Howard who consistently lower their shoulders and their head to gain a little extra yardage at the end of runs. It’s also the difference for power backs to deliver contact rather than being on the receiving end. That’s how you wear a defense down and why Howard seems to get stronger as the game goes on.

Make no mistake, getting more information about this rule is critical. Running backs like Howard may have to run far more vertical and become bigger targets and become far less effective as runners.

Perhaps people are looking at this rule like chicken littles and it won’t have the impact many expect. But the NFL is very serious about protecting the head, so there is no reason to expect this rule not to have a major effect as to how defenses tackle and how power backs run.

Could this rule turn Jordan Howard from a Pro Bowl-caliber back to an NFL relic? That’s certainly possible.