Brimming with first-round draft picks and high-profile free agents, the Miami Dolphins are aiming to turn their franchise into one of the league's best on a consistent basis.
It's the appeal of being part of this monumental shift that beckoned running back Jordan Howard to the Fins. Readying to play for his third team in as many seasons, Howard's motivation for joining a franchise in rebuild mode lies in once again constructing a turnaround.
"I just liked the opportunity it presented," Howard told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "I felt like we're turning things around down here, I just wanted to be a part of that. I was part of a turnaround in Chicago, so I embrace those type of things."
The Chicago Bears' leading rusher for three seasons, Howard's final campaign in the Windy City was a memorable 2018 in which he helped his team go from worst to first. He's more than happy to do that again with the Dolphins on the heels of a one-and-done stay with the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Dolphins certainly need a boost in their running game, coming off a 2019 season in which quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's 243 yards led the squad. In contrast, Howard had a shoulder injury limit him last season, holding him to four starts and 10 games, but his disappointing 525 rushing yards still more than doubled the Dolphins' leading ground gainer.
As a rookie in 2016, Howard reinvigorated the Bears' rushing attack, putting forth a Pro Bowl season with 1,313 yards and 5.2 yards per carry. He followed it up with a second consecutive 1,000-yard campaign, but he's yet to return to the Pro Bowl or match his rookie totals in yards and yards per carry. His yardage has regressed each season since, but the 26-year-old workhorse doesn't believe he has to prove himself to anyone but the guy carrying the ball. Though, it would seem he has a bit of the proverbial chip on his shoulder.
"I really don't have anything to prove to anybody, just to myself that I can still be that type of player," said Howard, who signed a two-year, $6.72 million deal with the Dolphins. "[I] just feel like I'm one of the top backs in the game, even [if] people don't give me respect or credit or anything like that.
"I'm still out here trying to show what I can do."
Along with joining a new team for the second year in a row comes having to learn a new offense amid the most unpredictable and unprecedented offseason likely in the history of the league, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It's been definitely different," Howard said. "Just not getting to be around the guys, especially being on a new team and stuff like that and only doing Zoom calls and learning the playbook – just through online meetings and stuff like that. It's definitely been different, but I feel like we been making the best of our circumstances, just getting in as much work as we can. I definitely feel like we're in good shape, but good shape and football shape is different. So, it's gonna be a little bit of an adjustment period."
Howard said getting together with other Dolphins for workouts has helped, particularly in terms of learning the new offense. Nonetheless, he is worried about the novel coronavirus as the pandemic carries on.
"I'm definitely concerned, because it's been going on for a while," Howard said. "I definitely didn't think it was going to be this big or go on for this while, it seems like they can't really get a hold of it and like a trigger and what's causing it. It's definitely a lot of unknown. I feel like the unknown is the scariest part. It's definitely a lot of concern."