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Disaster Recovery Week 4: Jordan Howard's Sour Day


Welcome to Disaster Recovery, where each week I'll examine why your studs played like duds.

This isn't a place to find out why you should have benched a player for somebody on your bench. Disaster Recovery is to examine the guys who you didn't think twice about benching, and deciding if you should be panicking at all about their value moving forward.

This season we'll be covering one dud per week. There will be two major qualifiers: the player must have performed well below expectations without an injury, and the player must be considered a must-start in most formats.

Editor's Note: Get any full-season NFL Premium Pass for 50% off. Our exclusive In-Season Lineup Tools, Lineup Optimizer and over 150 days of Premium DFS Research. Sign Up Now!

 

Rankings System

I'll also be implementing a new panic meter ranking system this year. It goes as follows:

  1. This week was a fluke. Don't panic!
  2. I still have full faith in this player, but there are some red flags. Be cautiously optimistic moving forward.
  3. There are genuine concerns here. Consider selling on name value, but don't panic too much unless you receive an offer you can't refuse.
  4. This player will not be the player you expected him to be. Regardless, his value may be too low to trade, and his ceiling is going to be better than anything you can get in return. Panic, but hold tight.
  5. Absolutely abandon ship. We're not coming back from this.

 
Week 4 had a large amount of duds considering how many players blew up the stat sheet. I almost wrote about Michael Thomas, but I thought we could do better than a one on the ranking system. Instead, let's talk about Jordan Howard.

 

Crying Jordan

Jordan Howard's Week 4 stats: 11 carries for 25 yards, along with one target and no receptions.

Lost in the shuffle?

The Bears absolutely decimated the Buccaneers on Sunday and ended Fitzmagic in the process. Mitch Trubisky threw a career-high six touchdowns, and it seemed like everyone got involved in the fun. Five different Bears caught Trubisky touchdowns. Newcomers Taylor Gabriel, Allen Robinson, and Trey Burton finally had their chance to shine. Most significantly, Bears running back Tarik Cohen totaled 174 yards on the afternoon and also found the end zone.

Two different Bears ran for over 50 yards Sunday: Cohen and Trubisky.

Now, I know what you might be thinking. The Bears were up 38-3 at halftime, they probably just wanted to give Howard time to rest up in the second half. Nope! Howard received eight of his eleven touches in the second half, and scoured 20 of his measly 25 yards in that half as well. Howard was available the whole game, and this is what we got.

Time-shares in the Midwest

After Week 1 of last season, I thought the Bears backfield would surely enter a time-share. Looks like I was simply a year early. The Bears have no reason to use Howard as the every-down back at this point. Howard is averaging just 3.2 yards per rush this this year, almost a full two yards less than Cohen. He's a much less effective pass-catching back. He's not going to be the three-down back people were hyping up this preseason.

Here's the scariest part about Howard right now: he might not even be the majority stakeholder in this timeshare. Cohen out-carried Howard 13 to 11 on Sunday, and overall out-touched him 20 to 11. While the majority of Howard's carries came in the second half, every single one of Cohen's carries came in the first half. Howard dominated touches when the gameflow called for a more conservative style of play. The aggressive air-it-out gameplan clearly benefited Cohen's style of play more, but it's still telling that Cohen was also the one receiving the bulk of the carries in the first half.

 

A Blessing in Disguise?

Look, it cannot get any worse for Howard than it did last week. That's not to say that it will get much better, but there are silver-linings we can point to that make me believe it might. 

Mitchell's Official

To put it kindly, the Bears passing game over the first three games was not good. Trubisky gave defenses no reason to worry about the passing attack. That all changed in Week 4, when Trubisky played the best game of his career and one of the best we've seen by a quarterback this season.

Now look, we have to acknowledge that it was against Tampa Bay, a defense that has been getting torched week after week. But even against a bad defense, six touchdown passes is nothing to scoff at. Defenses have to respect Trubisky and the passing attack more after this week. As we saw with Todd Gurley between 2016 and 2017, a respectable passing attack can do wonders for a running back. Holes may begin to open up for Howard.

There's also the bleak alternative. Maybe the Bears realized that this is the type of offense that works for them, and that Cohen is the better fit for that style of play. This type of offense probably isn't sustainable, especially when Tampa Bay isn't on the other side of the ball, but it's a question the coaching staff will have to examine during the bye week. The answer is probably somewhere in between.

Nearing the End Zone

Jordan Howard is still the clear goal-line back, and I don't expect that to change anytime soon. Howard has received all three of Chicago's carries inside the 10. He converted on one of them last week.

Howard received the Bear's only red zone carry this week. On the one yard line, Howard attempted to punch one in and salvage the Bears day. He lost two yards, and Trubisky connected with Taylor Gabriel for a touchdown on the next play.

Make no mistakes that Howard will get the goal line carries for the Bears moving forward. But should he? Should the Bears even run the ball inside the five anymore? Are these silver-linings I'm talking about actually silver-linings? This is getting hard to talk about.

Panic Meter: 4.5/5

I came really close to going a five here, but I don't think Howard is in a situation where you should trade him for whatever you can get back. I'd absolutely try to sell him based on the value his name carries. But if you can't get anything back that you'd feel good about, stay aboard the ship. I truly believe that Trubisky's barrage on Sunday will benefit the running game.

Quarterbacks need to earn respect before defenses respect them. This was the first time Trubisky has earned any of that respect. Maybe it will open things up for Howard. His back-to-back 1,100 yard seasons to start his career couldn't have been a complete fluke, right? ...right?

The unfortunate truth is that he's clearly not going to be this years Todd Gurley, as many had hoped for. But something might be left in there. If the Bears can re-work the rushing attack knowing they have a passing game backing it up, I still believe Howard can produce as an RB2, albeit a lower-end one. We'll have to wait until the Bears return from their bye week to find out.

What To Watch For

Any signs of life from Jordan Howard in the running game. The Bears won't be back on the field until Week 6. Whatever is going on with Howard, either he or the Bears need to figure it out. The clock is ticking on Howard's hold on the starting job. If he can't produce anything against the Dolphins in Week 6, it'll be Cohen's job.

Hell, it may already be Cohen's job by that point. Keep an eye on how Cohen and Howard split carries and snaps.

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