Jordan Howard

Jordan Howard leaves Eagles for huge deal with Dolphins

Jordan Howard leaves Eagles for huge deal with Dolphins

Jordan Howard’s Eagles career is over after just nine games.

Howard, the Eagles’ leading rusher the first half of last season, agreed Tuesday to terms of a two-year contract with the Dolphins worth more than $10 million, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The Dolphins ranked last in the NFL with 72 rushing yards per game last year and tied for last with the Jets with 3.1 yards per carry.

The Eagles acquired Howard from the Bears last year for a fifth-round draft pick, and he was off to a fast start through nine games, with 525 rushing yards, a 4.4 average and six touchdowns. He was the first Eagle running back with 500 yards, a 4.4 average and six or more TDs after nine games since LeSean McCoy in 2011.

But Howard suffered a shoulder injury — a stinger — in a game in early November against the Bears, his former team, and other than one snap in the season finale against the Giants, he never played again.

During his absence, rookie second-round pick Miles Sanders established himself as one of the NFL’s top young running backs and former practice squad player Boston Scott emerged as a viable option as well. 

Over the last nine weeks of the season, Sanders ran for 598 yards with a 5.2 average and had the eighth-most scrimmage yards in the league. And over the last four weeks, Scott netted 350 scrimmage yards in his first substantial career playing time.

Both are also on inexpensive rookie contracts — Sanders’ averages $1.3 million per year and Scott $615,000 — and as much as the Eagles valued Howard it simply made no sense to bring him back with a high salary now that Sanders has shown he can be a lead back.

Howard, only 25, has the third-most rushing yards in the NFL since he entered the league in 2016 with 3,895, trailing only Ezekiel Elliott (5,405) and Todd Gurley (4,298). His 30 rushing TDs are seventh-most in the league during that span.

Depending on where the final contract numbers come in, Howard will be one of the 12 highest-paid running backs in the league.

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What happened to Jordan Howard? He finally explains

What happened to Jordan Howard? He finally explains

When it happened? No big deal, Jordan Howard figured. 

“I thought I’d be right back for the next game,” Howard said. “But after a while it didn’t go away.”

It was back in Week 9, with the Eagles playing the Bears, his former team. Howard at the time was the Eagles’ leading rusher and on pace for more than 900 yards.

Howard ran 19 times for 82 yards and a touchdown in the Eagles’ win, but in the final minutes he got hit wrong.

“It was just at the end of the game, I got hit, I felt my arm go numb, and I knew I had a stinger,” he said. 

That was 54 days ago.

On Thursday, Howard was finally cleared for contact. He practiced Friday, and he’s expected to be in uniform Sunday when the Eagles close out the regular season in a crucial game against the Giants in East Rutherford.

He’s missed six games, and he’s lost his role as the Eagles’ lead back to Miles Sanders.

“It’s been kind of tough,” he said. “First time I’ve ever missed games in my NFL career, so it’s definitely been tough, so I’ve just been living through Miles and Boston (Scott), watching them play. … I wanted to be out there so bad. I had prided myself in not missing any games.”

This injury has lingered longer than most stingers. Howard has been able to participate in the walk-through portions of practice throughout his layoff, but he just never healed enough to be fully cleared for contact.

That clearance finally came when he was examined after practice on Thursday.

He said game days have been the hardest.

“Being out there, being on the sideline, wanting to get out there so bad but knowing I can’t,” he said. “Just tried to support my team any way I can. … Definitely been tough, but nothing I can do about it. It’s a unique injury and it takes time. You just have to be patient with it.”

Howard is a classic NFL workhorse back. Even with this injury he still has the third-most rushing attempts in the NFL since he entered the league in 2016 (behind only Ezekiel Elliott and Todd Gurley). He’s also got the third-most yards.

But the combination of Sanders’ emergence and Howard’s long layoff mean his role has changed dramatically.

“You just can't give him a full complement of plays,” Doug Pederson said Friday. “We don't want to necessarily disrupt what we have going, but he is a big piece obviously to our offense.”

Sanders will continue as the lead back, and Scott will continue as the second back.

Howard’s role? It’s going to be small.

“It’s been a while since I’ve been out on the field so it’s going to take some time to get back used to it,” he said. “I’m just trying to fit in wherever I can to help the team. I know I’ve got to get back into the groove of things. I can’t just go back out there and have my regular workload. I know what’s going to happen, so I can’t be naive about that.”

But if the Eagles need him? He will be ready.

“When I get out there I’m not going to be scared, I’m not going to be trying to take it easy or trying to ease into it,” he said. “That’s another way to get hurt, if you’re worried about injuries. So I’m not going to worry about it.”

Howard may not get more than a handful of snaps. He may not even get any carries.

But for a team that’s been losing talented players every week, it is a nice change of pace to actually get one back.

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Jordan Howard is finally cleared for contact

Jordan Howard is finally cleared for contact

After missing the last six games, Eagles running back Jordan Howard was cleared for contact after practice on Thursday and will make his return this weekend against the Giants.

“He’s good to go,” Doug Pederson said. 

Before suffering the stinger late in the Bears game on Nov. 3, Howard was the Eagles’ workhorse back. That won’t be the case on Sunday. 

Even if Howard was in true game shape, Miles Sanders and Boston Scott have been playing very well in his absence. They’re certainly not going to take away Sanders’ touches. 

“The challenge is we’ve been planning with Miles and Boston,” Pederson said. “Jordan gives us obviously a third back, situational guy. We understand who he is. But again, we mentioned yesterday, as far as the conditioning and the game shape and being ready and all that. 

“You just can’t give him a full complement of plays. We don’t want to necessarily disrupt what we have going. But he is a big piece, obviously, to our offense.” 

Howard’s stinger sapped the strength in his shoulder. While some of that strength has returned, it’s still something to watch on Sunday. 

“It’s good. I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily where he wants it to be,” Pederson said. “But it’s good for playing. Again, we’re going to be smart about it. Full steam ahead with Miles and Boston.” 

The Eagles will get Howard back for this game, but Zach Ertz’s status is very much in question as he deals with a rib and back injury. 

Pederson said Ertz will be at practice at Lincoln Financial Field on Friday, but won’t participate in the entire session. There will be times when Ertz goes inside to get treatment. 

Ertz wants to play on Sunday but he will need to be cleared and then the Eagles will have to make sure there’s not a risk of further and serious injury. 

“Medically, want to make sure that he’s 100 percent,” Pederson said. “Zach’s a tough guy. I know he wants to be out there. But at the same time, I’m not going to risk anything further with him personally.” 

Lane Johnson is still getting over a high ankle sprain and seems like a long-shot to play this weekend. Pederson said there is “progress” but Johnson will miss another practice on Friday. He’s expected to run on land (not in the pool) on Friday and Pederson said a determination about his game status has not yet been made. 

If Johnson doesn’t play, Halapoulivaati Vaitai will make his third consecutive start.

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