Bears head coach Matt Nagy stated in late July that he believes that RB Jordan Howard can play all three downs. Nagy doubled down on that statement on Friday, with a CBS Sports report coming out, with Nagy again stating his belief in Howard. He went on to say that the Bears are still committed to using Howard on 3rd downs.
The fact that Nagy has made this declaration so many time certainly makes it seem like he is serious, which brings to question what role will speedy, change-of-pace back Tarik Cohen will have if Howard is to be used on a decent chunk of 3rd downs.
We could see Cohen and Howard share the field on many possessions, providing Nagy's creative offense with yet another new look to show to defenses. His belief in Howard is sure to be a confidence boost for the third-year back, who has been plauged by issues with dropping passes in his NFL career.
Howard had a catch percentage (receptions divided by targets) of 58 percent his rookie year, and raised that to 71.9 percent his second season, but neither of those figures top Cohen's 74.6 catch percentage in his lone season.
Tarik Cohen's rookie season saw him catch 53 balls for 353 yards, compared to 52 receptions for 423 yards in Howard's two seasons combined. But the numbers reflect something else, the difference in opportunity. Last season Cohen received 71 targets in the passing game, compared to 32 for Howard. Cohen deserved the large volume of targets when you consider that he averaged 1.3 more yards per reception than Howard, but there is hope that Howard can become just as effective of a pass catcher, albeit in a different fashion.
He may never develop hands as sure as Cohen, but his rookie year shows his promise in the receiving game. In 2016, Howard only caught 29 balls, but he averaged a monstrous 10.3 yards per reception. No one is expecting Howard to get a 1st down per reception, but even if he simply matches last season's 5.4 yards per reception, a higher share of targets in the passing game will leave defenses in disarray.
Making sure opposing defenses can't predict the play type based off of the personnel is just one of many things Nagy is trying in his first year in Chicago to spice up what was quite a bland offense in 2017. In 2018, we can expect to see Cohen even line up at wideout a decent amount. One thing for sure, the Bears will be a diverse offense this season.