Jordan Howard still hasn’t been cleared for contact nearly five weeks after he hurt his shoulder, and at this point it certainly seems more likely than not that he will miss a fourth straight game when the Eagles face the Giants Monday night at the Linc.
A lot of factors have contributed to the Eagles’ three-game losing streak, but Howard’s absence is an under-rated huge one.
The Eagles were 5-4 and averaging 23 points per game with the fourth-year running back, and they’re 0-3 and averaging less than 17 points without him.
With Howard on the field, the Eagles were controlling the clock and keeping defenses off-balance. Doug Pederson spoke more than once about how an authoritative running attack had become the team’s identity.
That identity no longer exists.
Howard injured his shoulder in the win over the Bears on Nov. 3.
Pederson didn't mention Howard's injury after the game or the next day, and when the Eagles went into the bye there was no reason to believe it was serious.
Pederson first referred to Howard's injury as a “stinger,” or nerve damage in the shoulder area, on Nov. 15, nearly two weeks after Howard first got hurt.
Howard has practiced on a limited basis since the injury, but Pederson said Thursday he still hasn’t been cleared for contact and said there’s no change in his status.
Although rookie Miles Sanders has played very well, the Eagles miss Howard tremendously.
Through nine games, he was 14th in the NFL with 525 rushing yards and averaging 4.4 yards per carry.
Most importantly, he was moving the chains and getting in the end zone.
Going into Week 10, he had rushed for 28 first downs, 14th-most in the league (despite averaging just 13 carries per game), and he had six rushing TDs, 6th-most in the league.
In the three games Howard has missed, Sanders has averaged 4.6 yards per carry but has only 40 carries as Pederson has moved away from the running game.
The Eagles don’t have a rushing touchdown since Howard got hurt.
Interesting to note that in the nine games Howard played, the Eagles ranked 5th in the NFL in time of possession at 32:13 per game. Without Howard, they’re 13th at 30:44.
There are obviously other factors, but the Eagles’ offensive scoring is also down dramatically without Howard, from 23.3 to 16.7.
And most notably, instead of increasing Sanders’ workload with Sanders out, Pederson has simply decided not to run nearly as much.
In the nine games with Howard, the Eagles had the 6th-most rushing attempts in the NFL and a 55-45 pass-run ratio.
In the three games without Howard, the Eagles have the 3rd-FEWEST rushing attempts in the NFL and a 69-31 pass-run ratio.
The Eagles, who have lost running backs Corey Clement and Darren Sproles to season-ending injuries, signed Jay Ajayi a few weeks ago, but he’s only averaging 3.1 yards on eight carries so far.
When can we expect to see Howard?
It’s impossible to tell.
Pederson said Thursday he doesn’t expect this injury to be season-ending, but the season is over in 24 days, and Howard hasn’t played in 32 days.
Adding to the equation is the fact that Howard is scheduled to become a free agent after this season and the Eagles need to decide whether to offer him a long-term deal or not.
The season is slipping away, the Eagles haven’t won a game in over a month and one of the players they miss the most remains sidelined with an injury that won't go away.
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