Pro Bowl RB Describes ‘Disposable’ Return to Eagles Backfield

Pro Bowl RB Describes ‘Disposable’ Return to Eagles Backfield
Miles Sanders, Alshon Jeffery


Eagles players Miles Sanders and Jordan Howard celebrate as Alshon Jeffery looks on.

That chip on Jordan Howard’s shoulder keeps getting bigger and bigger. It ballooned to seismic proportions after a whirlwind offseason that saw Howard receive just one contract offer in free agency.

Howard inked a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles despite a disappointing 2020 campaign where he rushed for 27 yards in two games. The 26-year-old running back — Howard turns 27 on Nov. 2 — had been sitting out there on the free-agent market but his phone wasn’t ringing. He thought his career was done, washed up, kaput. Then the Eagles called and presented him with another opportunity to back up starter Miles Sanders. He’s ready to prove all the doubters wrong. Again.

“Honestly, the market for me was just pretty dry. I was at the point where I was having thoughts that I might be done because teams weren’t really calling,” Howard told reporters on Tuesday. “I always play with a chip on my shoulder, but at this point, teams that have written me off just didn’t think I had anything left.”

It’s a tad astonishing to think that no franchise wanted a fairly young rusher with limited tread on his tires. Howard made the Pro Bowl in 2016 in Chicago after racking up a career-high 1,313 yards that year. He still only has 932 total NFL carries in five seasons while averaging 4.2 yards-per-carry.

The Eagles claimed him last year off waivers on Nov. 23 when the Miami Dolphins kicked him to the curb. Howard was hurt then and now, adding that running backs have become “disposable” in the NFL.

“I can’t wait to prove everyone wrong,” Howard said, referring to the 31 teams who passed on his services in free agency. “I just have to help this team out any way that I can.”

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Sanders Enters Camp with High Expectations

This marks the second straight year that Sanders enters training camp with heightened expectations. The third-year running back stoked the flames last offseason by promising an MVP year in the Eagles’ backfield. Well, things didn’t quite go according to plan due to a hamstring injury. He was in and out early in the year but still ran for 867 yards in 12 games.

Howard isn’t here to steal Sanders’ job. His role is to mentor and take on some of those punishing short-yardage carries to keep Boobie fresh. New head coach Nick Sirianni comes from a system in Indianapolis that valued the run game and leveraged it to set up everything in the passing game. Sanders is going to be a huge part of the Eagles’ offense in 2021.

“Again, we build our schemes — I can’t say this enough — based off the players that we have,” Sirianni told reporters on March 18. “But it doesn’t mean we’re not looking for certain things. Each position is a little bit different. You’re just looking to fill roles. [For example] for a running back, you’re looking to fill the multiple roles that you have or that you look to use in that.”

Running Game Untracked Under Sirianni?

Buried in this week’s bombshell report by The Athletic was a tidbit about how ownership used to chastize coaches for running the ball too much. Jeffrey Lurie is obsessed with the West Coast offense and throwing the ball down the field.

So much so that he would question former coach Doug Pederson’s play-calling, especially when he ran it more than he threw it. Pro Football Talk described an awkward scene following a Thursday night win:

The Eagles reportedly treated former coach Doug Pederson like “a baby,” according to unnamed sources who claim that Pederson was beaten down by relentless second guessing. In 2019, for example, after a Thursday night win at Green Bay, Pederson was grilled by owner Jeffrey Lurie (an analytics aficionado) over the fact that Pederson hadn’t called more passes.

Sirianni was blessed with two great running backs in Indianapolis — Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines — and used them fully to his advantage. Will he be permitted to do the same in Philly with Sanders and Howard? Time will tell.