Jordan Howard was coming off the worst season of his young career when the Philadelphia Eagles traded for him last offseason. In his third NFL season, Howard failed to cross the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his career, so the Eagles were able to pry him from the Chicago Bears for a conditional sixth-round draft pick. They were getting the running back in a contract year, and he could be one of two things to them: a potential long-term fixture added at a bargain or a one-year bridge to Miles Sanders, whom Philadelphia took in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft about a month after trading for Howard.
For the first few months of the season, Howard and Sanders split the Eagles’ workload. Sanders got the bulk of the carries in the first three weeks of the season, then Howard got the bulk for the next five. A return to 1,000-yard form was in play until an awkward tackle near the end of a win against the Bears knocked Howard out for weeks.
“It was just at the end of the game,” Howard said late last year. “I got hit, I felt my arm go numb, and I knew I had a stinger.”
Howard returned for the regular-season finale, but played only one offensive snap in a win against the New York Giants, stuck behind Sanders and even fellow running back Boston Scott on Philadelphia’s depth chart. He didn’t play a single snap in the Eagles’ postseason loss to the Seattle Seahawks the next week.
By then, Philadelphia was set on Sanders, who was one of five finalists for the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year Award. Howard’s bounceback season will now have to come with the Miami Dolphins, who reached a two-year, $10 million deal with the halfback last Tuesday.
Even in just nine games, Howard was far more productive than any Dolphins running back in 2019. Ryan Fitzpatrick led the team with 243 rushing yards. Mark Walton, whom Miami released halfway through the season, finished second with 201 yards. Fellow running back Kenyan Drake, whom the Dolphins dealt ahead of the trade deadline, finished third with 174 yards. Patrick Laird, who finished the season as the starting running back, finally checks in as the fourth leading rusher on the team with 168 yards. There won’t be any lack of opportunities for Howard in Miami Gardens.
He could — and probably even likely will — be in a similar situation to the one he was in last year in Pennsylvania. The Dolphins have three first-round picks in the 2020 NFL Draft and 14 picks total. At least one of those picks will be used to find a franchise tailback, but if Howard is his old self Miami will also have a top-end running back.
In the eight games before his season-derailing injury, Howard had 525 rushing yards and six touchdowns on 119 carries. It was the first time in his career he didn’t log at least 250 carries. There are reasons to believe his injury-plagued 2019 was just an exception.
“I wanted to be out there so bad,” Howard said. “I had prided myself in not missing any games.”
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