Bears

Bears will ride Jordan Howard going forward after impressive first start

Bears will ride Jordan Howard going forward after impressive first start

When the Bears decided to move on from veteran running back Matt Forte this past offseason, it opened the door for one of the young running backs in their stable to take the reins of the backfield and run away with the job.

Those reins appeared to have Jeremy Langford's name on them, but when he suffered an ankle injury against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 3, and with backup running back Ka'Deem Carey dealing with a hamstring injury, the door swung open for rookie running back Jordan Howard to show the Bears coaching staff what he could do in an expanded role.

Howard didn't disappoint.

Making his first career NFL start, Howard looked every bit the part of a bell cow running back. He carried the ball 23 times for 111 yards (4.8 yards per carry) and hauled in three catches for 21 yards in the Bears' 17-14 victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday afternoon.

Howard became the first Bears running back to reach 100 yards on the ground since Forte accomplished the task in Week 1 of 2015 against the Green Bay Packers.

"I always knew that I might not be the fastest but I can get the job done," Howard said. "I've always believed in myself because if you don't believe in yourself nobody else will. You have to have self confidence. You have to be a determined runner. Not let the first person tackle you. You have to just keep moving your legs.

"I wasn't expecting the 100 yards but that made it even better. Just getting a win, I'm very excited about that."

Coming out of Indiana University, where he became the 150th player selected and 10th running back to go off the board in the 2016 NFL Draft, Howard was billed as a physical runner who didn't go down on first contact and had the ability to drive through would-be tacklers and fall forward for extra yards.

Howard's scouting report rang true against the Lions, as he wore down their defense by the time the fourth quarter rolled around. Howard notched an impressive 68 yards after first contact, according to ProFootballFocus.com.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Bears veteran wide receiver Eddie Royal wasn't surprised to see Howard's running style take a toll on Detroit's defense.

"I saw it in training camp. I'm like, 'This kid is going to be a great player for us,'" Royal said. "His physical nature of running the ball, defenses are going to get tired of tackling him and he just gets those extra yards for us, and he did a great job."

One member of the Bears who spent time blocking for Howard shared the same sentiment. 

"He ran so well today," Bears tight end Zach Miller said. "The thing about him is the yards through contact. He keeps his feet turning and he's always falling forward, gaining extra yards. All those things matter so I'm happy for him to get over 100 in his first extended [action]."

Bears head coach John Fox has a history of deploying the running back-by-committee approach throughout his career. He did it Carolina with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, and he used the same tendencies in Denver with the likes of Knowshon Moreno, Montee Ball, Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson.

Fox also showed signs of taking that same approach in his first season with the Bears in 2015 with Forte, Langford and Carey. While it's not out of the question that Fox will go back to that game plan when the Bears have three healthy running backs, it's no secret he has faith in the rookie as evidenced by Howard's 23 carries compared to Joique Bell's three rushing attempts and third-stringer Raheem Mostert's goose egg.

"Obviously, he has a positive impact," Fox said. "We noticed pretty early on. Jordan is a big back and we knew that when he came out of Indiana University. The thing we didn't know is the quickness of his feet and the vision he has. I think he's outstanding and we will ride him pretty good going forward."

Howard's expanded role in the Bears offense is expected to continue next week when he draws the start at Lucas Oil Stadium — an hour drive from where he starred at Indiana — against the Indianapolis Colts. Don't expect him to shy away from the big stage. 

"I don't feel like the moment is too big for me," Howard said. "I'm just grateful for the opportunity God blessed me with, and the Bears for choosing me and giving me the opportunity to play."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Who deserves the blame in the Bears loss to Miami?

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Who deserves the blame in the Bears loss to Miami?

David Haugh, Adam Jahns and Patrick Finley join Kap on the panel. The Bears lose a rough one in Miami as Matt Nagy goes conservative at the end zone. Does the rookie coach deserve all of the blame? Dave Wannstedt joins the guys to discuss.

Plus the guys discuss the Cubs’ newest hitting coach/scapegoat, Brandon Saad’s upcoming healthy scratch and Bobby Portis betting on himself this season. 

Listen here or in the embedded player below!

Akiem Hicks makes Pro Football Focus Team of the Week after strong game against Dolphins

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Akiem Hicks makes Pro Football Focus Team of the Week after strong game against Dolphins

The Bears defense was not its usual self in their overtime loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. The pass rush was minimal and tackling looked optional, and Brock Osweiler threw for almost 400 yards.

There was plenty of blame to go around, but a few individual defenders had success while their teammates struggled.

Defensive lineman Akiem Hicks made the Pro Football Focus Team of the Week for Week 6 with a 92.2 overall grade.

He recorded seven tackles that resulted in a defensive “stop,” the most of any defensive lineman according to PFF.

Chicago’s next highest-graded player was cornerback Kyle Fuller (78.2), who intercepted Osweiler twice but also missed two tackles.

Offensively, wide receiver Taylor Gabriel led the way with a 76.9 mark. PFF credited four of his five catches coming against Dolphins cornerback Torry McTyer in coverage.

Meanwhile, outside linebacker Khalil Mack had the lowest-graded game of his career (47.8), while linebacker Danny Trevathan (29.9) and safety Adrian Amos Jr. (47.5) each had their second-worst games.

Some of the Bears’ best players were at their worst in Miami. They’re going to need to get their act together for the New England Patriots on Sunday.