Photos of Bears running back Jordan Howard.
During the offseason, the Bears running back had PRK eye surgery and says he now has 20/20 vision. The clarity should help him as a receiver and he expects a larger role in the passing game this season. His practice reps are about the same as they were late last season, but there have been more opportunities in check-down situations.
"There’s still room to improve," Howard said Tuesday after the first day of minicamp at Halas Hall, "but I definitely feel like I’ve made a big step up from last year."
Though was targeted 50 times last season, he had only 29 receptions for 298 yards and one touchdown.
On the ground, Howard was a force, rushing for 1,313yards on 252 carries to finish as the NFL’s second-leading rusher behind the Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott with 1,631 yards.
A fifth-round draft pick out of Indiana University, Howard proved his worth in his rookie season.
"This time a year ago, he wasn’t even practicing," Bears coach John Fox said. "I like where we are right now. We have way more competition, whether it’s at running back or any other position, and he’s better for it."
Still, Howard only scored six rushing touchdowns, far less than Elliott’s 15.
None of Howard’s touchdowns were from outside the red zone except his 21-yard reception for a score. His longest rushing touchdown was 9 yards.
With only 10 runs going for at least 20 yards, Howard averaged 5.2 yards per carry.
"Sometimes, I had those long runs then we ended up stalling and not getting any points," Howard said. "I definitely have to finish in the end zone on my long runs."
To do that, Howard is working on his long-term conditioning so, instead of burning out, he will be more durable. He also thinks he will be faster if he drops another 10 pounds to 225.
"We’d have good opportunities to score, put points on the board, but we would mess it up," Howard said of the team’s overall offensive struggles last season. "Sometimes we wouldn’t even be able to settle for a field goal."
With that hindsight, Howard knows the Bears need him to be a capable receiver and have the stamina of a all-downs running back. He’s more comfortable entering this season and believes he can a better all-around back.
There’s a larger view in sight, too.
"I’m definitely trying to be the No. 1 rusher in the league this year," Howard said.