After getting traded to the Eagles in March, Jordan Howard was already entering a contract year and then the Birds drafted a running back in the second round.
Not exactly ideal.
So it would be understandable if Howard was upset on draft day in April, when the Eagles took Miles Sanders, his possible replacement, with the 53rd pick. The Sanders pick didn’t shut the door on his long-term prospects of staying in Philly after this year, but it certainly seemed to put them in question. The Eagles didn’t draft Sanders to sit on the bench.
If Howard is upset, he’s hiding it pretty well.
“Nah, it doesn’t worry me at all,” Howard said on Tuesday after his first practice as an Eagle. “I just have to focus on the year ahead. I can’t worry about being a free agent or anything like that. I just have to worry about the season ahead.”
Howard, 24, thinks he and Sanders will complement each other. Howard said Sanders is “shifty [and], at the same time, powerful.” These two, and a combination of Corey Clement and perhaps one other, will make up the Eagles’ backfield group this year.
While Sanders — who didn’t practice for an unspecified reason on Tuesday — will assuredly take snaps from Howard this season, there’s no expediting experience. Howard has three full seasons as a pro and is the NFL’s third-leading rusher since he entered the league in 2016.
Fitting in here
For now, Howard is crashing with his college teammate Nate Sudfeld as he gets used to his new and perhaps temporary city. Howard said Sudfeld gave him the OK to stay all season, but he’s trying to move out within the next few weeks so he doesn’t overstay his welcome.
As far as things at the NovaCare Complex, Howard is starting to feel at home. He’s settled into a cozy locker stall next to a support pillar that used to house Jay Ajayi. That will be his home away from home.
And he’s also been picking up the playbook. There are plenty of similarities between Doug Pederson’s offense and Matt Nagy’s in Chicago but there are plenty of differences too.
He seems happy here.
Getting to know Duce
Howard also seems to legitimately like playing for Eagles running backs coach Duce Staley. Staley is known for his tough coaching style.
“Even though I’ve been in the league going on four years, I still don’t know everything,” Howard said. “I like a coach that’s going to push me to keep getting better.”
In general, Howard has simply enjoyed being in the company of Staley, whom Howard said had the biggest personality in the running back room. The two are getting along great, according to Howard.
Work as a receiver
One of the parts of Howard’s game he needs to keep working on is his ability to be a receiver out of the backfield. He’s already come a long way, catching 72 passes in his first three NFL seasons after catching just 24 passes in three years in college.
As he’s felt more comfortable as a receiver, he’s enjoyed it more and more.
While the Eagles have options for their third-down back — atop the list should probably be Clement — Howard could earn third-down reps too. Generally, the Eagles’ third-down back has some pass-catch ability. Howard will try to show he can get the job done.
“I’m looking very forward to it because I worked hard on that part of my game and putting that time in,” he said. “I’m just glad I have a chance to show that off.”
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