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Eagles Find Their Power Back in Jordan Howard

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By Paul Bowman, Sports Talk Philly Editor

On Thursday night, the Eagles completed a trade for Chicago Bears running back Jordan Howard.

The Eagles most likely lose a fifth-round pick in the 2020 draft as they traded a sixth-round pick that can become a fifth-rounder depending on whether or not Howard reaches benchmarks that have not yet been made public.

For comparison, the Eagles gave up a fourth-rounder in the middle of 2017 for a season and a half of Ajayi. Howard has just one season left on his rookie deal.

Howard was a workhorse back for his first two seasons and took a lot of snaps despite a decreased role in 2018. Howard will likely not see as many snaps in the Eagles committee approach, which should keep him fresher later in the season and late in games when the Eagles need to chew clock.

The move all but assures that Jay Ajayi will not return and will likely sign with former offensive coordinator Frank Reich who is coaching the Indianapolis Colts.

Howard provides an upgrade over Ajayi. Howard is entering his third season in the league and has made a Pro Bowl appearance as well as had two 1,000-yard rushing seasons in 2016 and 2017 compared to Ajayi’s lone 1,000-yard season in 2016.

Howard is a better power runner than Ajayi and will be able to take on a role similar to that of LeGarrette Blount during the 2017 season. Howard comes with better receiving abilities that either Blount or Ajayi, however.

Ajayi accounted for 58 receptions and an average of nearly 6.88 yards per reception over his first three seasons. He also accounted for 106 first downs rushing and 21 receiving first downs. Meanwhile, Howard has accounted for 72 receptions averaging 7.9 yards per reception in addition to 184 rushing and 23 receiving first downs.

Player Jay Ajayi Jordan Howard
Receptions 58 72
Yards per Reception 6.9 7.9
Rushing First Downs 106 184
Receiving First Downs 21 23

The more important of these stats are the first down, especially those rushing first downs that help show Howard’s success converting those short-yardage situations that Wendell Smallwood was not especially good at and Josh Adams was unable to convert even once.

The catching abilities will also help to keep opposing defenses off-balance. With LeGarrette Blount coming in, teams knew there was next to no chance he was catching a pass out of the backfield. Howard will not allow defenses to commit to a run so easily.

Howard also enters with not only the third-most rushing yards over the past three seasons, but also the third-most yards after contact, showcasing his ability to break tackles.

Looking at the price the Birds paid for him, the team is heavily utilizing the compensatory pick formula once again. The team moved a 2019 third-round pick for Tate and a fourth-rounder in the 2020 draft. In this deal, the Eagles are likely looking at a 2020 fifth-rounder for Howard and a 2021 sixth-rounder. That is, unless the team falls in love with Howard (and he the team) and are able to work out a team-friendly extension for him.

Howard is owed only $600,000 in 2019, so there is not much cap damage done in the deal and the Eagles appear to have a running back room filled with guys on rookie deals (Howard, Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood, Josh Adams and Boston Scott) in addition to the potential return of veteran Darren Sproles.

It is another excellent move by Howie Roseman to patch the last glaring hole on the roster prior to the draft. The team can now afford to take the top available prospects in the draft without needing to pass on a better player to reach for someone to fill a positional need.

Josh Jacobs, Miles Sanders and the other backs in this year’s draft will still be on the radar, but a round one selection may be a bit more difficult to believe following this deal.

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