PHILADELPHIA — Eagles coach Doug Pederson and executive vice president of football operation Howie Roseman gave the equivalent of an Aaron Rodgers “R-E-L-A-X” to those panicked about the lack of moves to address the offensive backfield this offseason. Both noted at the owners meetings that all three of their primary runners in the 2017 postseason run were acquired after the draft.
“The roster is constantly taking shape,” Pederson said Tuesday during the coaches breakfast. “We’re going to explore everything and add value and talent where we can.”
Patience was rewarded Thursday, when the team acquired Jordan Howard from the Chicago Bears, who will receive a sixth-round pick in 2020 that can become a fifth-round pick, a league source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Howard is the most accomplished running back on the Eagles’ roster at the moment, and he appears to be the favorite for the role of lead back — for now. He is the league’s third-leading rusher since he entered the NFL in 2016, he has a pair of 1,000-yard seasons under his belt, and he made the Pro Bowl as a rookie. Nicknamed “The Bulldozer,” the 6-foot, 224-pound Howard has a punishing running style and a nose for the goal line, as he has scored nine rushing touchdowns in each of the past two seasons.
In recent years, the Eagles have gravitated toward bruising backs, such as LeGarrette Blount (6-foot, 247 pounds) and Jay Ajayi (6-foot, 223 pounds), both of whom have the ability to feast late when the defense is worn down. Howard can provide a similar service to a team that likes to get ahead with the pass early and salt the game away late with the run.
Howard’s role on the team should be in pencil more than pen for the moment, though. He experienced a statistical slip last season, and his yards per attempt have dipped each of the past two years, from 5.2 to 4.1 to 3.7. Current backs on the roster such as Corey Clement, Josh Adams, Boston Scott and Wendell Smallwood will want to have their say, and it remains possible that the Eagles will use one of their seven picks on a running back this April.
Coach Doug Pederson left the door open for a Darren Sproles return as well, adding to the likelihood that the running back room will look different come the summer.
Even so, Howard represents an upgrade from the group that finished 28th in rushing last season. Although probably not a long-term fix — he is entering the final year of his rookie deal — Howard has a chance to be the lead back on a Super Bowl-hopeful team in 2019.