Jordan Howard is off to an incredible start to his career. He set the Chicago Bears rookie rushing record in 2016 with 1,313 yards and became the first Bears running back in franchise history to begin a career with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. He ended last year with 1,122 yards.
Can he do it three years in a row?
Our J.J. Stankevitz offered five hypothetical Bears prop bets in light of the Supreme Court's decision on sports gambling. One of those bets was an over/under on Howard's rushing yards. The line was set at 999 1/2 yards. According to more than 900 fans polled, Howard will hit the over.
Howard's production will depend largely on how he's used in Matt Nagy's offense. Kareem Hunt, last year's standout rookie with the Chiefs, led the NFL in rushing (1,327 yards) with Nagy calling plays. He was also targeted 63 times in the passing game and secured 53 receptions. A Nagy running back has to catch the ball, something Howard has struggled with so far through two seasons.
He'll need to become a more consistent receiver to maximize his reps on the field. If Nagy starts developing more confidence in Tarik Cohen, who proved last year he can run the ball with field-flipping ability, then Howard's opportunities for carries will slowly slip away.
For now, Howard is the bell cow of the running game and has the confidence of Bears fans behind him.
The new Alliance of American Football league is giving fans more of what they love on the weekend, even if it isn’t quite NFL quality on the field.
As you might expect, the Bears are tuning in too, to get another look at some of the talent available that could be headed back to the big league.
“Our pro scouts are all over that,” Bears general manager Ryan Pace told ChicagoBears.com. “We had pro scouts at their training camps that we sent down there. It’s really too early to say how many players are going to come out of there, but we’re going to be looking closely at it like we do every league.”
Pace and his scouts should already be familiar with quite a few players in the AAF who spent at least a little time in Chicago.
Former draft picks Evan Rodriguez and Will Sutton might be the biggest names among the former Bears, but plenty of UDFAs from the past are suiting up again for the next eight weeks.
Wide receiver Rashad Ross was one of the AAF’s leading receivers after the first week, and he spent part of the 2014 season with the Bears.
On the other side of the ball, cornerback De’Vante Bausby had a strong debut, just over two years since leaving Chicago in 2016.
Other top names in the AAF include former third-overall pick Trent Richardson and former Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg.
And of course, Hall of Fame Bears linebacker Mike Singletary is the head coach of the Memphis Express.
Bears general manager Ryan Pace has some difficult financial decisions coming in free agency. He may not be able to afford re-signing both safety Adrian Amos and slot cornerback Bryce Callahan under the salary cap.
If Chicago opts to let one or both of their young defensive backs test the market, they could get plenty of attention from other teams in need of secondary help.
Pro Football Focus’ Mike Renner sees the Detroit Lions as an ideal fit for Callahan, writing “The slot corner in Detroit was a mess of ineffective play all season long. Callahan was the third highest pure slot corner in the league last year.”
The Bears do have veteran Sherrick McManis as an option if Callahan signs elsewhere in free agency.
PFF also identified a landing spot for Adrian Amos, who Renner believes would be an upgrade for the Houston Texans over pending free agent Tyrann Mathieu.
Chicago won’t have the same resources to be big spenders in free agency again this year, and Pace is tasked with trying to squeeze the most out of the salary cap space he has to help the Bears take the next step in 2019.