Jordan Howard is 26. A former Pro Bowler. A two-time 1,000-yard rusher.
And he thought his career was over.
Such is life for NFL running backs these days.
He had two 1,000-yard seasons before he turned 24 and had the 3rd-most rushing yards in the NFL in his first three seasons.
Now he’s back with the Eagles because nobody else wanted him.
“Honestly, my market was just pretty dry,” said Howard, who re-signed with the Eagles last month. “I was at the point I was having thoughts I might be done because teams weren’t really calling.”
It was only two years ago that Howard was the Eagles’ leading rusher through nine games and on pace for nearly 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Then he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury, signed a two-year, $10 million contract with the Dolphins, averaged a historically bad 1.2 yards per carry, was released after just five games, resurfaced on the Eagles’ practice squad and got seven carries in the last two games of a miserable season.
There were no takers in free agency, so the Eagles, needing running back depth, signed him to give him a chance to rekindle a career that seemed so promising not that long ago.
“It definitely humbled me after being released by Miami and stuff like that because things didn’t work out the way I wanted to and most of the time things have gone great for me,” Howard said Tuesday. “Facing some adversity definitely humbled me. I always play with a chip on my shoulder, but at this point, teams that wrote me off and just didn’t think I had it anymore, I just can’t wait to prove people wrong.”
Howard ran for 3,370 yards for the Bears from 2016 through 2018, 28th-most ever by a running back in his first three seasons. And he was on his way to a big season with the Eagles in 2019 when he got hurt.
Howard has had only 35 carries since his terrific first half of 2019.
Can 35 carries really re-define a running back this dramatically?
This is how things go for running backs these days.
Teams squeeze every drop of production out of them and then move on.
“I think it’s just because the game is more of a passing league, it just feels like running backs are disposable,” Howard said. “(Teams) feel that they can get a running back wherever, any round or undrafted. I really feel like we’re (considered) disposable. But I feel like running backs can do a lot of different things. We still have a lot of value to teams. Some teams value running backs more than others. Really just got to keep fighting that stigma. I would never want to change being a running back. I love being a running back. Even though it’s not the fancy position it used to be. I just love it.”
What’s Howard’s immediate future?
Remains to be seen.
Sanders, who blossomed in 2019 after Howard’s injury, will be the Eagles’ No. 1 back this year and Boston Scott, a versatile runner and receiver, projects as the No. 2 back.
But if Howard shows he still has some juice left he’ll have an opportunity to make the team as a backup. Nick Sirianni will run the ball more than Doug Pederson, so having a veteran back could make sense, although Howard is limited because he doesn’t play special teams and he’s not a receiver.
Howard piled up nearly 4,000 rushing yards, 36 touchdowns, a 4.3 rushing average and a Pro Bowl all before his 26th birthday.
And now he’s scrambling just to stay in the league.
“I still feel like I have a lot left,” he said., “Past two years, I got the injury that put me out for a lot, last year I didn’t really play, so I feel like I have a lot left in the tank.”
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