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Chicago Bears: Jordan Howard Challenging Ezekiel Elliott for Offensive Rookie of the Year


December 3, 2016

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Hold your fire, internet trolls.

Before anyone throws me into the furnace for even thinking of attempting a piece like this, hear me out on why Chicago Bears running back Jordan Howard should be considered for NFL Rookie of the Year.

Back in the spring, Ezekiel Elliott was widely regarded as the best running back in the 2016 NFL Draft, and maybe even the best overall talent available. The Dallas Cowboys considered themselves lucky to capture this guy at number four overall, and Elliott more than likely began licking his chops after that all-important phone call when he began to dream up the possibilities behind that NFL-best offensive line. It was a match made in heaven.

Jordan Howard, meanwhile, was coming out of Indiana as what looked like a potential steal in a later round – however, no one knew exactly what they were going to get out of a guy who spent only one season at a top tier university. Howard played his first two seasons at Alabama-Birmingham before transferring to Indiana, finishing with over 3,700 rushing yards in those three years. When his name was called in the fifth round, he knew he had a chance to prove all of the so-called experts – as well as all NFL front offices – dead wrong about his draft grading.

Fast forward, and here we are in December during what has turned out to be two very solid rookie seasons by two exciting young backs. While everyone and their mother will tell you Elliott has run away with the NFL Rookie of the Year award, I am begging all of you, and your mothers, to take a closer look at this race. There are some startling differences between the two seasons these guys are having, and Howard is deserving of a little love, too.

Because we all love to dig into stats during these arguments, let’s take a look at some of the more intriguing bits. Howard is on pace for over 1,500 yards from scrimmage, yet he didn’t get his first start until week four. Elliott? He’s going to burn past 1,500 with ease. We know that. How about scoring? We won’t even compare the touchdowns – Elliott has that area covered, due in part to Howard not having nearly as much around him on offense as Elliott does. But, there three key numbers I want voters and experts to take a look at.

First, Howard ranks fourth in the NFL at an astonishing rate of 5.1 yards per carry. Second, Howard is first in the league with an average of 3.5 yards after contact. Lastly, he ranks first in the NFL with 0.22 broken tackles per touch. This is all according to a recent report from Pro Football Focus.

What does this say in regards to why Howard should be getting more attention? It’s simple.

There is one glaring difference between the two rookies: Howard is, in fact, the Bears’ offense. We’re talking about a Bears team that leads the NFL in players on injured reserve at an alarming 15 – at least that’s where they stand as I write this. Don’t count on that number staying out for too long, if this season is any indication.

Chicago has had an embarrassing 30 players on an injury report at one point this year – again, leading the league. Currently, their two Pro Bowl guards – Kyle Long and Josh Sitton – and starting center – Hroniss Grasu – are out for the year. Three quarterbacks are on that injured reserve list – Jay Cutler, Brian Hoyer, and Connor Shaw. Their top four wide receivers in Alshon Jeffery, Kevin White, Eddie Royal and Marquess Wilson have been either injured or suspended throughout the season – White being out for the year.

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Can I also point out one more thing? Chicago fans are sick of a guy by the name of Dowell Loggains. Yes, this is the man who called pass plays on first and second down, in the red zone, with a quarterback in his first ever NFL start in three years. Howard has only carried the ball more than 20 times in a game twice this season. With the quarterback carousel in Chicago, and the Bears having a back like Howard, what is Loggains thinking? Hopefully, for the Bears’ sake, firing this lunatic will be one of many changes to come to this next offseason – end of rant.

The moral of the story: Elliott has help from his teammates. Howard does not – and that’s an understatement.

Get the picture?

Look, I am not saying that Howard should run away and win this thing – I am a strong advocate for Elliott winning the hardware. I would be a fool to think anyone else deserves it right now.

What I only wanted to do was shed some light on another guy. The mainstream media loves them some Cowboys, and rightfully so. But, while the Bears have been downright awful in 2016, their lone bright spot is in line for a heck of a lot more coverage, particularly in comparison to Elliott.

Will Elliott win the award? Absolutely.

But, Bears fans have a lot more to worry about than just a terrible 2016 campaign. I know I can speak for every single one of them when I say this: The city of Chicago cannot wait to see Howard at the reigns with a full season, a healthy offensive line, and hopefully a new coordinator. If they’re lucky, they will also have seen Jay Cutler play the last game he’s ever played as a Bear – but that’s an entirely separate discussion.

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