The Washington Commanders chose to start Sam Howell in Week 18 last season to see what they had in the fifth-round pick. The coaching staff evidently liked what they saw, as the franchise committed to Howell soon after the victory vs. Dallas.
Commanders: Will QB Sam Howell Lead Franchise To Postseason Or The No. 1 Pick?
The Commanders said they were rolling with Howell, but not a soul actually believed them. With Lamar Jackson and Aaron Rodgers rumors swirling, along with a quarterback draft class that boasted a few intriguing options — Washington made good on its assertion.
Rather than trading the farm to move up or secure a veteran signal-caller, the front office learned from the previous off-season mistake. A failed Carson Wentz trade essentially tanked the year for the Commanders, as the polarizing quarterback failed to find his footing in the nation’s capital.
Commanders Exhibit Patience This Offseason
Instead, the team opted for a roster-building approach to the offseason. If you can’t have an elite quarterback, at least do what you can to form an elite roster around him. The NFL Draft class brought in a few instant starters, while free agency saw Andrew Wylie come over from Kansas City.
This all goes without mentioning the impressive stock of talent already on the roster. Terry McLaurin is the most underrated wide receiver in the NFL, and Jahan Dotson has the chops to be just as good early in his career. Antonio Gibson and Brian Robinson Jr. lead the rushing attack, giving Howell two safety blankets as he eases into the starting gig.
On defense is where the stars roam. Chase Young, although rarely healthy, is an absolute menace when he’s on the field and locked in. The former Defensive Rookie of the Year has been in trade rumors for most of the past 12 months, but he is expected to return to D.C. and continue hounding quarterbacks.
Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, and Montez Sweat join Young in making the most physically imposing front line around. Throw in Jamin Davis at linebacker, and it makes for a potentially dominant front seven. First-round pick Emmanuel Forbes looks the part of a star at cornerback, too, giving Riverboat Ron Rivera even more ammo on defense.
Sam Howell Has The World At His Feet
The roster may not boast the overall talent of a Philadelphia or San Francisco, but few teams can match the sheer star power of the Commanders. Ultimately, the group will go as far as Sam Howell takes them. Or more aptly put — however far Howell can go before defenses expose him.
Howell is talented in his own right — don’t get me wrong. He possesses one of the better deep balls in the NFL, and his ability to create as a runner is increasingly valuable in a league trending that way. Still, the mental aspect and fundamentals leave too much to be desired.
Howell must clean up his footwork and learn how to read and react to defenses quicker. Furthermore, the Tar Heel legend lacks the ideal size to see over his blockers, which has caused issues for shorter quarterbacks over the years.
I am skeptical about Howell and the Commanders in 2023. I can’t rule out a surprise ascension-up quarterback power rankings for the former UNC signal-caller, but that is something I’ll have to see to believe. He was a fifth-round pick for a reason, after all.
Jacoby Brissett is waiting in the wings if things go south with Howell. He is a starting-caliber player at the position, and I would feel better predicting more wins for Washington if Brissett was named the starter. I don’t blame the Commanders for rolling with Howell; there’s not much to lose.
Either Howell shocks the world and makes the front office look brilliant. Or he flames out, and Brissett gets a chance to right the ship. Or, perhaps the most likely outcome, the Commanders stumble throughout the year and earn a high draft pick next April.
It would take a serious downturn for the franchise to be bad enough to land a Caleb Williams or Drake Maye. An injury here, an injury there, and underwhelming play behind center could be the unintentional tank necessary to get one of these talented quarterbacks.
What do you think? Did the Commanders mess up by committing to Howell? Do you see it as a long-term plan to ensure Williams or Maye at next year’s draft? Sound off in the comments below!