By rushing for 1,313 yards as a rookie, Jordan Howard did something that no Chicago Bears first-year rusher (including Walter Payton, Gale Sayers, Neal Anderson, and Matt Forte) ever accomplished. And by putting himself on the map with a Pro Bowl rookie season, Howard has Bears fans dreaming of a brighter future on the offensive side of the football.
And if he can live up to some favorable comparisons from his new position coach, Howard and the Bears will be on their way back to prominence:
#Bears RB coach Curtis Modkins says Jordan Howard is "big and strong like Marshawn was" and "there's a little bit of Fred Jackson in him."
— Zach Zaidman (@ZachZaidman) July 31, 2017
Curtis Modkins’ comparisons of Howard to Marshawn Lynch is an eye-opener.
Lynch was a strong, powerful runner who shed tacklers with ease. A true feature back, Lynch proved to be durable, especially while lining up in the backfield for the Seattle Seahawks. Lynch had a four-year run from 2011 to 2014 where he missed just one game and rushed for an average of 1,339 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns per year. We’ll see how much he has left in the tank with the Oakland Raiders after taking the 2016 season off.
No running back had a missed tackle-to-fumble ratio higher than Howard last season, so maybe there is something to be said about this comparison.
Fred Jackson is the less-sexy comp dropped by Modkins, but it’s still interesting nonetheless. Much like Howard in his rookie season, Jackson was no stranger to being overlooked. He played eight seasons for the Buffalo Bills, putting together five years in which he gained 1,000 yards from scrimmage. Jackson had just one 1,000-yard rushing season, but racked up more than 8,200 scrimmage yards in 106 games in Buffalo.
For what it’s worth, Modkins was Buffalo’s offensive coordinator from 2010-12 where he coached both Lynch (before he was traded to the Seahawks in 2010) and Jackson. Modkins had an up-close look at Jackson gaining a total of 3,172 scrimmage yards and scoring 17 total touchdowns in 36 games over that three-year stretch. For Howard to reach Jackson’s productivity, he’ll need to round out his game and improve as a pass catcher. Jackson has six years in which he played at least 10 games and had a catch percentage of 72 percent or better. Howard’s catch percentage as a rookie was a disappointing 58 percent.
Modkins has been around the block, and has seen football as a coach from the perspective of the secondary, tight ends, running backs, and as an offensive coordinator. Perhaps Modkins, who is replacing the highly regarded Stan Drayton, can use his experience to get the most out of the player who could be the most important non-quarterback on the Bears.