By: Tom Shannon
Former NFL running back Maurice Jones-Drew rates the 32 NFL running backs. He has new Dolphins running back Jordan Howard at number 30:
“Howard is in this spot for several reasons. He is several years removed from a 1,000-yard rushing season and is in a new scheme on a rebuilding team. He's also recovering from a shoulder injury that kept him out for the final six games of last season and will be sharing the backfield with Matt Breida.”
Thirtieth seems to me to be a bit low for Howard. There’s every reason to believe that the shoulder will be fully healed. And the fact that he’s sharing snaps with Breida isn’t as relevant as the reason he’s sharing them.
It’s very easy to underestimate Howard. Even though he’s reputed to be a power back he really doesn’t look that big on the field. He’s not fast and he’s not flashy.
That makes him fit in just fine with the Dolphins, who have what appears to be a very vanilla roster.
"I just liked the opportunity it presented," Howard told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel about joining the Dolphins. "I felt like we're turning things around down here, I just wanted to be a part of that. I was part of a turnaround in Chicago, so I embrace those type of things."
Howard was with the Bears for three seasons including 2018 when the team went from worst to first. He knows firsthand that sometimes coaching, hard work and the culture in the locker room can mean more than the talent on paper. As an individual, he embodies that on every level.
Howard has a reputation for not being able to catch a pass which isn’t true. He can and does catch passes. The problem is that he’s not the kind of back that is going to do a lot with the ball once it’s in his hands. That’s the reason he’s paired with Breida, who is more elusive in space as a third down back.
But Breida won’t be as good as Howard when there are yards on the field that you really need to run the ball to get. That is Howard's expertise where he uses his vision and hard running style that get him through. You’ll watch him approach a line of scrimmage that appears to be clogged with bodies. You blink and he’s suddenly through untouched. That make him perfect as a runner in an outside zone blocking scheme.
Howard is a slashing, one cut straight line runner who will find a crack is a defense that you never knew was there. Sometimes it’s like magic. But it’s not. It’s real talent. Just not the kind of talent that is always apparent.
You can follow Tom on Twitter @bearingthenews