Stan Drayton knows some things about running backs. At one time the all-time leading rusher in Division III history, Drayton also was assistant head coach and running backs coach under Urban Meyer at Ohio State, where he coached Carlos Hyde to 1,521 rushing yards in 2013, then followed with Ezekiel Elliott netting 1,878 the next year.
From there he went to become Bears running backs coach, where this year he had the lead role in guiding rookie Jordan Howard to a franchise-rookie-record 1,313 yards.
As good as Howard's season was – culminating with being named to the NFL Pro Bowl, replacing Arizona's David Johnson – it is only the beginning.
"He's nowhere near what he's going to be in this league," said Drayton, now associate head coach and run game coordinator with the University of Texas. "Nowhere."
Howard said Wednesday that Drayton had told him during this season that Howard has a chance to be one of the best backs in the league for a long time. The reasons are both physical and emotional, Drayton told CSNChicago.com.
Howard was a healthy scratch in the opener at Houston, the only player in uniform besides backup quarterback Brian Hoyer not to see a single snap in the game. Howard said it discouraged him at first, but also motivated him, and that was what Drayton saw.
"It was burning in him to play [at Houston]," Drayton said, "but he wasn't going to be disruptive. He just worked harder, and I think it all ultimately took its proper course."
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Drayton saw mindset from the beginning of their time. Howard, a fifth-round pick out of Indiana, was motivated by where he was finally drafted, but focused away from the disappointment.
"He just has that quiet confidence in himself," Drayton said. "From day one he just let down all of his guards and let himself be coached. He just had such a drive to get better, and there was no resistance at all."
Howard may not have elite pure speed. But he tied for third in runs of 20 yards or longer (10) and third in rushing first downs (70)
"He has the ability to get to the second level at full speed," Drayton said. "It's not about top-end speed with Jordan. He's a big back and he hits like a big back. He's perfect for that [Bears] zone-blocking scheme. He is decisive and has an amazing sense of timing.
"And he's going to just keep getting better."
Tarik Cohen has a knack for explaining things in an entertaining way. His description of Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy was no exception.
"He's a swag coach," Cohen said after training camp practice on Sunday.
Nagy is definitely bringing a different kind of swagger to Chicago's sideline. Maybe it's his youthful optimism that's such a pleasant change of pace from his predecessor. Maybe it's because he's just a confident guy who knows his offense is going to score a lot of points.
Cohen said he and the rest of the guys on offense are starting to feel more comfortable with Nagy's system.
"I just feel like the offense is getting comfortable faster. Everybody is tuned in and the fact we have so many good guys at so many positions is making it easier for the offense."
Learning a new system is a challenge, but learning multiple positions in a new system can be a daunting task. And it's exactly the undertaking facing Cohen, who will line up all over the field for the Bears.
"I feel like it's more mental. Now I really think I have that down pat and know where I'm going when I come in the game."
The Bears conducted their first padded practice of training camp on Sunday, a milestone that represents the next step in developing timing and efficiency for Nagy's system.
"There's a lot of things not in pads like running routes, the run game for the linemen. With pads, those holes are more realistic and you can get your keys in. You know you can get hit now and have to keep your head on a swivel."
Has Chicago Bears wide receiver Kevin White finally arrived?
All the offseason commentary surrounding White has been positive. General manager Ryan Pace said White was entering training camp with momentum and coach Matt Nagy has been clear that the former first-round pick is getting a clean slate this summer. But regardless of how positive the reports of offseason workouts and a clean bill of health are, White has to prove on the field that he belongs.
In Sunday's practice, White made the kind of highlight-reel touchdown catch Pace envisioned when he selected him seventh overall in 2015. It was arguably his most impressive play as a Bear.
White, lining up wide to the left, got a great release off the line of scrimmage, causing the defender to flip his hips and run in an effort to stay with White down the sideline. White maintained good separation throughout the deep route and finished the play by hauling in a perfectly thrown ball by Mitch Trubisky. It would've been a 40-plus yard touchdown.
With Allen Robinson participating fully in Bears practices, the coaching staff is getting a great look at how intimidating the passing game can be if White finally takes hold of all his natural talent.
White has to string a series of good practices together before too much can be made of one great play. Nevertheless, this is a great development for a Bears passing attack that's expected to be much improved in 2018.