Slump or Jump: How will Chicago Bears running Jordan Howard perform in 2018?

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 03: Jordan Howard
CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 03: Jordan Howard /

As the Chicago Bears 2018 offseason continues, there is no doubt that they have gotten better on paper.

Being one of the youngest teams in the NFL, the Chicago Bears have plenty of players at multiple positions that seem like they’re waiting to take take the next step. Today, we examine whether or not Jordan Howard can take the next step in 2018.

2017 season recap:

In sixteen games, Howard amassed 1,122 rushing yards, averaging 4.1 yards per carry to go along with nine rushing touchdowns. He added twenty-three receptions for one hundred twenty-five yards.

Howard is an interesting player. One minute he can break away for a big gain, but the next, he can drop a pass in a crucial situation. Regardless, he’s definitely emerged as one of the more underrated players in the NFL.

While there were reports of a rift between Howard and the Chicago Bears throughout the offseason, that tension has died down and now Howard is expected to be a Bear in 2018. Knowing this, what must Howard do to be considered amongst the NFL’s best running backs?

After the hiring of Matt Nagy, many wondered what role Howard would play considering his poor pass catching abilities. Last season, recall that in the opening game against the Falcons at Soldier Field, Howard dropped the potential game-winning touchdown in the final seconds on the one-yard line. Now that he’s on the roster for 2018, it’s essential that he as a running back works hard to improve this skill needed to survive at his position in the NFL.

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Looking back at Howard’s career stats, there is evidence that he can catch the football. During his rookie season, he caught twenty-nine receptions for 298 yards and averaged 10.3 yards per reception. While those are great numbers for Howard, it’s also worth noting that he was targeted fifty times that year.

Then in 2017, there was a noticeable decline in Howard’s production as he had twenty-three receptions for 125 yards, averaging just 5.4 yards per reception on thirty-two targets.

We all know that Howard can run and be off to the races, but his inability to pass catch is what is holding him back from back from joining the NFL’s top-tier running backs.  To show that he has improved and indeed worked on his pass catching abilities, Howard will need to demonstrate consistency from game to game.

The Bears have done everything right to help Howard succeed. His current running backs coach Charles London worked with the Bears from 2007-2009, when Forte caught one hundred twenty passes in 2008 and 2009 combined while being targeted one-hundred forty-eight times over that span.

There’s no denying the fact that Howard is going to be part of the Bears for the foreseeable future. But if he is to play an even bigger role, he’ll need to show some improved pass-catching ability, while being consistent. And looking at the offensive staff the Bears have brought in, led by offensive genius Matt Nagy, it seems as if Howard is primed to succeed.

Prediction: Jump