Jordan Howard: Is a Sophomore Slump Coming?

After a tremendous rookie campaign, will Jordan Howard’s second season be even better or could he be inline for a sophomore slump?

There weren’t many bright spots for the Chicago Bears 2016 season. Chicago tied the franchise record with 13 losses and saw several of their key players miss significant time. Some of them, like Danny Trevathan, may still be injured when the 2017 season gets underway. The season was a disaster, but one player that shone brightly all season was rookie running back Jordan Howard.

Howard finished the season, second in the NFL in rushing yards and second in yards per carry. He was also the only running back with over 250 attempts that didn’t fumble at least twice. He also ran for 70 first downs, good for third in the NFL.

In any other season, Howard would be piling up the rookie of the year awards, but thanks to Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott, Howard’s end-of-year hardware will be surprisingly light.

But 2016 is firmly in the rear view mirror (at least for the Bears), and the Bears are already looking at 2017. Shortly after the season ended, running back Stan Drayton took a new job on Tom Herman’s new staff at Texas. Drayton is nothing short of a running back guru. He’s helped develop some of the best running backs the NFL has seen over the last couple decades including Brian Westbrook, Ahman Green, Arian Foster, Carlos Hyde, and of course, Elliott and Howard.

With Drayton gone, the Bears search for a new running backs’ coach and hopefully one that will gel as well as Drayton did with Howard. Howard has shown the size, strength and skills to continue to succeed at this level, but will Drayton’s departure hinder Howard’s development?

One would hope with the same offense and offensive line that Howard’s second season would be as good as his first, but Drayton’s departure could certainly be felt. It’s not a coincidence that great running backs seem to follow Drayton around. He is the best in the business, and you can’t just assume that he didn’t play a huge part of Howard’s success.

Dec 4, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears running back Jordan Howard (24) reacts with Chicago Bears tight end Daniel Brown after rushing for a touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers during the second half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

If Howard stays healthy, it seems far-fetched that he could truly suffer a sophomore slump. But it certainly could be possible that we see Howard’s yards per carry drop and see a slight down tic in his offensive production overall.

Hopefully Drayton’s departure isn’t felt at all. Hopefully Howard’s 2017 is better in almost every aspect of 2016 (especially if Dowell Loggains would just give him the damn ball!) and he makes the leap to become one of the top few backs in the league.

The unfortunate thing is that we don’t know if Drayton’s departure will be felt. We can hope it won’t, but we just don’t know. The Bears have uncertainty all over the roster and it seems that Howard is one of the few pieces that is as certain as the sun rising in the East. Let’s just hope that Drayton’s move to Texas doesn’t put Howard’s performance in question as well.

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