The Jordan Howard hype was already big enough going into 2017. Despite not practicing during much of last offseason and barely playing in the first three games, he still finished second in the NFL with 1,313 yards rushing. It earned him Pro Bowl honors. He was the first Bears rookie to accomplish that feat since Brian Urlacher in 2000. Pretty good company to keep.
Not that Howard is resting on his laurels. Far from it. He made it clear to the Chicago Tribune recently that he was not satisfied with last season. For one the team finished 3-13. He wants to win more games and feels improving his individual performance can help with that. Reports already surfaced that he’d dropped a considerable amount of weight. Thus increasing his speed and quickness.
That wasn’t the most drastic thing Howard did though. There was something else. At first it may seem benign, but it could actually prove huge.
Jordan Howard hype build around great vision
Aside from adjusting his conditioning, Howard also underwent surgery. No, not to correct any injuries he might’ve played with. Instead he did something a bit radical in order to boost his performance even further. Something totally legal as it turns out.
“During the offseason, the Bears running back had PRK eye surgery and says he now has 20/20 vision. The clarity should help him as a receiver and he expects a larger role in the passing game this season. His practice reps are about the same as they were late last season, but there have been more opportunities in check-down situations.
“There’s still room to improve,” Howard said Tuesday after the first day of minicamp at Halas Hall, “but I definitely feel like I’ve made a big step up from last year.”
Understand this. Coming into the league experts were impressed with Howard’s vision already. They stated it was one of the biggest strengths of his game. He saw where holes were going to be and could get through them quickly. Watch this 69-yard run against the Vikings last year for an idea.
Note that even before the hand-off Howard is scanning the line. When he gets the ball there is zero hesitation. He see the crease and wastes no time getting downhill before the linebackers are able to close it. He slips through into the secondary and then it’s off to the races. Imagine if a leaner, faster Howard had been running on that play. He would’ve probably housed it.
A versatile Howard is a dangerous Howard
So him being able to see better on the ground is bad enough. Now try to imagine what a Jordan Howard who could catch the ball might be capable of. Keep in mind he was targeted on pass plays 50 times as a rookie. He only caught 29 of those passes though. Not great efficiency, but at the same time the team has incentive to improve that. Howard averaged a gaudy 10.3 yards per reception.
In other words if he made say 45 catches in 2017 that would rack up around 463 yards. Add that to his 1,300 rushing and that is over 1,700 total. Impressive numbers no matter how one looks at it. This is the beast that the Bears are hoping to unleash this season, and it all could happen thanks to a common surgical procedure on his eyes. Pretty wild.