PHILADELPHIA (94WIP) -- The Philadelphia Eagles filled a need at running back with the acquisition of Jordan Howard in a trade with the Chicago Bears.
There is plenty to like about this deal. To acquire Howard, the Eagles sent back just a sixth-round draft pick in 2020, which could become a fifth-round pick if Howard reaches certain benchmarks in his first year with the team.
So what are the Eagles getting in Howard?
Here is a look at some of the strengths and weaknesses of the Eagles' newest running back:
Tough runner: Howard is in some ways a miniature LeGarrette Blount, and is at his best running into the line of scrimmage as opposed to having to bounce the ball outside. Howard was known for being a physical player in Chicago and is more than happy to lower his shoulder into any oncoming defender. His physical style really shows up in short-yardage situations. According to the Eagles, Howard converted 23-of-31 third- or fourth-down plays that were 2 or fewer yards in 2018, a 74-percent success rate. The Eagles struggled in that department last season.
Pass blocking: It absolutely critical that any running back that gets on the field for the Eagles is able to pass-block, something Howard is more than capable of doing. He was the best pass-blocking running back in the NFL last season, according to Pro Football Focus. The Eagles had issues last season trusting their running backs to stay back in the pocket and block, something that was going to be especially true if Darren Sproles doesn't come back. Howard fills that need.
Reliable: Howard isn't an especially flashy player, but he is reliable -- something that is likely very attractive to the Eagles after dealing with all kinds of issues at the position over the last two seasons. Howard has missed just one game in his NFL career, and has played in 1,854 snaps over the last three seasons. He has been incredibly productive and consistent, totaling at least 900 yards and six touchdowns in each of his three seasons.
Pass catcher: Howard is not great as a pass catcher, which is likely why the Bears decided to move on from him. Howard had just 20 catches last season for 145 yards. To put that in perspective, Wendell Smallwood had 28 catches for 230 yards. Howard has struggled with drops, dropping six of the 29 catchable passes thrown his way in 2017, per Pro Football Focus. Howard improved in 2018, not dropping a single pass. There is reason to believe that Howard could be a factor in the passing game with the Eagles and Doug Pederson, but it is fair to be skeptical of it heading into next season.
Two-down back: Until he proves otherwise, Howard is not going to be a threat on obvious passing third downs, making him essentially a two-down back for the Eagles. He could be left in to block, but defenses are not going to worry about him coming out of the backfield. It wouldn't be surprising if the Eagles decided to add a more competent pass-catching back in the NFL Draft.
Advanced stats: The advanced stats on Howard are not pretty. Football Outsiders gives Howard a DVOA (essentially the football equivalent of baseball's WAR stat) of a negative-11.2%, meaning an average player would have actually finished with better stats than Howard did last year. Football Outsiders estimates that Howard ended the season with 28 fewer yards than the average running back would have had, taking into account the blocks he had to work with and the situations in which he touched the ball. Howard was a player -- if you buy into the advanced stats -- that in some ways hurt the Bears' offense more than he helped it.
By Eliot Shorr-Parks