LAKE FOREST – Bears defensive lineman Bilal Nichols knows Philadelphia Eagles running back Jordan Howard isn’t going to shy away from the Bears’ defensive line.
“He’s not scared to lower his shoulder,” Nichols said. “Actually, that’s all he wants to do. And he’s great in pass protection. He’s just doing what he’s been doing his whole career from what I’m seeing on film.”
His whole career before this season, of course, was with the Bears.
Howard fell out of favor in 2018 with first-year coach Matt Nagy. His lack of pass-catching production led some to wonder whether he really fit into Nagy’s offense.
With his former team heading to Philadelphia this week, Howard is coming off his best game of the season after running for 96 yards last week in an Eagles win over Buffalo. His 23 carries marked a season high.
This came the same week that Bears rookie running back David Montgomery, Howard’s replacement in orange and blue, ran for a career-high 135 yards.
“Jordan does what Jordan does,” Nichols said. “He’s a tough-nosed back who’s not scared of contact. I think we all know that. That’s what makes him great.”
The Bears traded Howard to Philadelphia over the offseason for a 2020 sixth-round draft pick that could become a fifth-round pick. Howard ran for 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons in Chicago, and finished with 935 rushing yards last year. He was a Pro Bowl selection as a rookie.
“I know that he’s doing well,” Nagy said. “Any time you cut ties with players, and players that are good people, that’s just where we were. We were at a time where we went in a different direction. Sometimes change is good for everybody. We’re happy that he’s doing well.”
Asked why Howard might be seeing a resurgence in Eagles coach Doug Pederson’s offense, Nagy said that Pederson’s current offense isn’t quite the same as what he ran as offensive coordinator in Kansas City from 2013 to 2015, when Nagy was his quarterbacks coach.
“Even when I was still in Kansas City and he went to Philadelphia, the scheme didn’t stay exactly the same,” Nagy said. “There’s a lot of the same principles involved, but it didn’t stay totally the same. You build your own kind of identity and system that you like.
“I think [Pederson] calmed down a lot with formations, and it worked for him. You look at Kansas City, they’re still doing some formations that are unique.”
Between Carson Wentz, Miles Sanders and Zach Ertz, among others, the Eagles present plenty of options offensively other than only the former Bears running back.
“They’ve got so many weapons on offense you can’t just key in on Jordan because they can beat you in so many other ways,” Nichols said. “We’ve just got to have that focus and that patience.”
Nagy showed the Bears interview clips of the Washington Nationals on Thursday after the Nationals’ Wednesday night victory in Game 7 of the World Series. In late May, the Nationals were sitting at 19-31, far from the playoff picture.
The hope is that the 3-4 Bears can take some inspiration from Washington’s achievement.
“How do you not show that to your guys?” Nagy said. “That’s a really cool moment for [the Nationals], and that should be something that all of us learn from in the sports world.”