All offseason speculation was that the Bears wanted to get stronger at running back. Despite their insistence that they were happy with running backs that they had, there were indications that the Bears would like to add one. The most obvious sign came when the Bears offered restricted free agent C.J. Anderson a contract. In the end Anderson signed an offer from Miami and Denver matched it.
With that in mind the Bears selection of Indiana running back Jordan Howard in the fifth-round is an interesting one. The scouting reports on Howard are glowing. His size, aggressive running style, footwork in the hole and, especially, his vision are all strengths and the consensus seems to be that he’s got good potential to be an impact player. So why did he fall to the fifth round?
A clue may be found in the interview which Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune did with Deland McCullough, running backs coach at indiana, about Howard:
“Does he get behind his pads well and lower his pads?
“‘Oh, yeah. Again, getting what you stress, that’s one of the things we emphasize — running with low pads. Obviously not being what I call ‘dumb tough,’ just running into guys to run into them, (but) to use it as a means to set things up and also to send a message that, ‘Hey, I’m here, and I’m coming hard every time.’ Of course, once you soften those guys up, you get them on their heels, you’re able to utilize your spin move, sidestep guys, etc.'”
Sounds good. Unfortunately independent scouting reports don’t support McCullough’s answer, probably the reason why Campbell asked question in the first place. For instance, NFL.com says about Howard: “Upright pads and narrow base leads to slips and balance issues when trying to make sharp cuts.”
This, apparently, is the major concern about Howard along with potential health issues. He suffered a torn meniscus and a stress fracture in his pelvis during his junior year in high school and he missed four games and parts of three others with knee and ankle injuries. His relentless running style may lead to more injuries than the Bears would like.
The good news is that Howard appears to have everything it takes to make a good NFL starter. It appears that his size, agility toughness and vision are all top notch. It will be interesting to see if the Bears can coach him into a less upright running style which will leave him less prone to injury.