GREEN BAY — For the bulk of Mike McCarthy’s experience in the Packers-Bears rivalry, Matt Forte was the feature running back for Chicago and a multi-level threat in the Bears’ offense.
But with Forte gone, the Bears have turned over the feature role in their backfield to rookie Jordan Howard, who stepped in early in the season when Jeremy Langford went down with an injury. Closing in on 1,000 rushing yards this season, Howard hasn’t given the job back now that Langford is back on the field.
“Jordan is a good player,” McCarthy said prior to Thursday’s practice. “You watch the tape, he doesn’t waste any steps. He’s decisive with his reads. He’s very comfortable running the football in their offense. Good forward lean. Very good young running back.”
Earlier in the week, Bears head coach John Fox likened Howard to Packers RB Eddie Lacy, not in terms of body type, but in terms of running style, and McCarthy concurred.
“They get north and south and they make good decisions,” McCarthy said. “Both of those guys have a similar running style that way.”
For the Packers at running back, James Starks has been sidelined due to a concussion from a car accident on Monday. Other than the concussion, Starks is fine, but he is in the protocol and did not practice on Wednesday.
Ty Montgomery has taken over as the most-used back in the Packers’ offense, and McCarthy was asked if the converted receiver could handle a 20-carry load in a game.
“That’s a question you really grow into,” McCarthy said. “He’s definitely a durable player. You look at the way he’s built, he returns kickoffs too, so that tells you what we think about his ability to run up in there. We’ll see how it goes this week, but I have confidence he could get to that number if we had to.”
Packers.com will have more following practice and locker room interviews.