Coach Matt Nagy has been praised over the past few months by many people with whom he’s worked — past and present — since being named the Bears head coach. However, there have been questions as to how some of the Bears' vital players from previous seasons will fit into the new offensive system.
RB Jordan Howard, in particular, was even the subject of reported trade rumors back in early April, when it was reported that Howard was not a great fit for the Bears. Now just two months later, Howard and many of his fellow key cogs on offense have acclimated well to the new system.
“They’re all pretty similar. Trey [Burton], he’s picked up the offense pretty easy," Howard told PFW on Wednesday, before the second of three veteran minicamp practices at Halas Hall to conclude the Bears offseason program. "Almost everyone picked the offense up pretty easy.”
With all that is being installed by Nagy and his staff, Howard shared his excitement to work in an offense that featured the NFL rushing champ just a year prior in Chiefs rookie RB Kareem Hunt.
“I like coach Nagy putting me in space and the different ways he uses running backs," Howard said. "They can catch a lot of passes and run for a lot of yards. I mean, Kareem Hunt led the league in rushing, so it’s pretty exciting.”
In addition to leading the league in rushing yards, Kareem Hunt added a modest 455 receiving yards. Howard, who has had his ability to contribute as a pass catcher questioned often since the end of last season, will look to duplicate Hunt's success now that Nagy is the one calling the shots. “Everyday on special teams, I catch a lot of passes to work on my hand placement,” Howard said of his routine to improve.
Nagy’s emphasis on getting his best players the ball, Howard said, is something the Pro Bowl running back has noticed. “The offense is a lot more multiple. There are different schemes and a lot more shotgun. It’s not stuck in one thing, so it can change in different ways. We can be a passing offense, a running offense or we can do both. It’s very multiple.”
One of his philosophies that coach Nagy has preached is that the coaching staff is going to do everything it can to put players in the best situation to succeed. Howard has observed the similarities between Nagy’s system and the one he played in college at Indiana, where shotgun and pistol formations dominated the playbook.
“There are a few things that coach Nagy does similar. The run-pass options are pretty similar to what I did in college, and just being in the spread offense,” he said.
Howard appears confident in his understanding of what the staff wants to do schematically — and it showed in his effort on the practice field during the club's Wednesday minicamp session. Already one of Chicago's more established stars on offense, he is looking to help set the tone for the upcoming season.
“I really just try to lead by example and push myself in practice," said Howard. "I try to push myself through drills and just run downfield and be an example for the younger guys.”
Howard, who was second in the league in rushing as a fifth-round rookie two years ago, before becoming the first-ever Bear to tally consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons to begin his career, has consistently exceeded expectations, and it’s tough to envision a scenario where he isn’t successful under this new coaching staff.