Sam Howell impressed many with his performance during the Washington Commanders' 26-6 win over the Dallas Cowboys, and the team is going to give him the chance to be their guy for the 2023 season.
In a recent interview with Julie Donaldson and on Radio Row leading up to the Super Bowl, Ron Rivera confirmed that Howell, a fifth-round pick last year, will "more than likely" enter the offseason as the Commanders' starting quarterback.
"Now we have a quarterback we feel pretty comfortable in," Rivera told Donaldson. "We're going to give Sam every opportunity to see if he can be our starter, and we'll go from there."
Howell' sample size was limited during his rookie year, mostly because he was the third quarterback on the depth chart behind Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke. Howell did get the chance to be the primary backup once Wentz went on Injured Reserve with a broken finger, but with most of the Commanders' games being close during that stretch, there were still few opportunities for him to get on the field.
That changed in the lead up to the season finale against the Cowboys, when Rivera named Howell the starter and Heinicke as the backup. Howell looked polished against one of the league's better defenses, and while he only threw the ball 19 times, he did complete 58% of his passes and showed off his arm strength with a 52-yard shot to Terry McLaurin.
Howell's first throw also went to McLaurin, and it resulted in a 16-yard touchdown for the Commanders, giving them a lead they did not relinquish for the entire evening. Howell also had five rushes for 35 yards.
"We knew he was capable of doing what he did today," said fellow rookie Jahan Dotson. "He played a great game, getting everyone the ball, putting it on the money. He played an awesome game. I'm just super happy for him."
It also showed Rivera what the former Tar Heel is capable of.
"I thought he handled it very nicely, went out and did some really good things," Rivera said after the game. "This is a guy who played some pretty big-time football and handled that pretty well. He just did a nice job."
Now, Rivera believes Howell entering the offseason workout program as the likely starter will be "his opportunity" that he can earn the job long term.
"This is a challenge to him," Rivera said. "If he comes out and does the things he's capable of, we believe he's capable of, he can most certainly be our guy. But we'll find out. That's what competition is going to do, it's going to bring out the best in all our guys."
Howell is, of course, only part of the equation at the position. Rivera added that the team is not done evaluating the position and did not rule out bringing in a veteran quarterback, whether that be Heinicke, who is set to be a free agent in March, or another option. He also mentioned looking at the draft for another player to add to the room.
Even if that were to happen, that still would not prevent Howell from earning the job himself.
If Howell does end up earning the starting job, he will have several playmakers at his disposal that Rivera is confident will be able to help him. Aside from McLaurin, Robinson and Gibson, the Commanders have Curtis Samuel and Dotson as their primary receivers. At tight end, there is a veteran pass-catcher in Logan Thomas with several younger players who could have a bright future.
Howell was patient throughout his rookie season. He sat back and learned behind Wentz and Heinicke while making the most of his opportunities running the scout team. This year's offseason and training camp will be a chance to show he can handle a larger role.
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