Nagy: Bears' Jordan Howard 'can play all three downs'

The intrigue and optimism around this year's Chicago Bears extends to every corner of the offense, from receiving acquisitions Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Trey Burton to emerging coaching minds Matt Nagy and Mark Helfrich.

But lost in the hubbub concerning all that is new in Bourbonnais this summer is Chicago's most reliable, and often unheralded, playmaker: Jordan Howard.

The third-year running back rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons with the Bears and finished among the top six runners in attempts (276), yards (1,122) and touchdowns (9) last season. His 12 100-yard games are tied for most in the league in this most recent two-year span.

But despite Howard's production, more attention has been paid to his second-year backfield mate, Tarik Cohen, whose speed, elusivity and pass-catching ability makes him one of the game's most dangerous athletes and a fantasy darling.

Given Cohen's early-career success and change-of-pace potential, one might think that Chicago will siphon some of Howard's carries, especially on third down, toward Cohen this season.

Nagy insists that's not necessarily the case.

"There's this notion that he is just a first- and second-down back, and I don't believe that," Bears coach Matt Nagy said of Howard on Saturday. "Jordan can play all three downs. We're going to do that. We're going to use him and we're going to use other guys on first and second down when we need to.

"It's important for Jordan to know and for everybody on our offense to know that he's a big part of this. This kid's had a very successful career so far. We're crazy as coaches if we don't understand it and if we don't use that to our advantage."

As Kansas City's offensive coordinator, Nagy coached rookie runner Kareem Hunt to a league-leading 1,327 rushing yards -- but Hunt didn't have an RB2 like Cohen threatening to take his snaps.

It will be interesting to see how Nagy and Helfrich implement the run-pass option with Howard and Cohen, backs with markedly different skill sets, and how they divide snaps.

Chicago boasts more young weapons in its offensive arsenal this season than any in recent memory. But even with Mitchell Trubisky's revamped receiving corps warranting targets, Nagy is focused on establishing the ground game, with Howard as his go-to back.

"The run game is extremely important," Nagy added. "You have to run the football in this league. Everyone knows what we've done in the past and what we're going to do with some of the RPO things.

"But you've got to be able to get in the trenches, too, and line up and say, 'You know what? They know that we're going to run the football. How do we get yards?' It's an important part of it. Our guys know that, and you'll see that down the road here."

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