Impressive wouldn’t be a strong enough word to illustrate quarterback Sam Howell’s preseason slate. In fact, some would say it was expected if you studied him at North Carolina.
A fifth-round rookie and third quarterback on the Washington Commanders’ depth chart, Howell’s trio of performances this summer showcased a talent the burgundy gold should feel awfully confident about as they enter 2022.
A quarterback whose 2021 production—in my mind—provided a true window into the talent he was in the year prior with the slew of NFL talent around him, Howell’s ability to carry the Tar Heels last fall showcased a gamer that competes his tail off no matter the situation around him.
Long story short, a Ron Rivera guy.
Watch how the bench reacts to Sam Howell on this play.
14 can ball, folks.
— Ryan Fowler (@_RyanFowler_) August 28, 2022
The NFL’s preseason leader in passing yards, while it was the preseason and it must be taken with a grain of salt, Howell was excellent in the significant amount of time that he saw in three outings.
In an NFL debut that saw him provide a jolt of energy into the Commanders’ offense during the second half of their loss to the Carolina Panthers, Howell’s first impression was as good as it could possibly have been. Pumping throws into tight windows, confidence amongst chaos, creating outside of structure with his legs, Howell looked the part in leading an offense—an uncommon sight in the nation’s capital.
Look, I get it, his success during three games came against opposing teams’ second and third-string defenders, but it’s the NFL and everyone is getting paid to suit up. No, he wasn’t throwing against Jaycee Horn against Carolina or lofting nine balls down the boundary against Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, and Marcus Williams in Baltimore, but you produce against the 11 in front of you, and Howell did that—and then some.
Love how Sam Howell drives this ball outside the numbers. He can spin it. pic.twitter.com/ts7raBtU0S
— Ryan Fowler (@_RyanFowler_) August 20, 2022
It’s throws like this that get you excited—outside the numbers to a spot only his guy has a chance is textbook quarterbacking. A lot of the time, we see young signal-callers enter the league as throwers, not quarterbacks—understand that there is a definitive difference. For Howell, while he has the ability to create outside the pocket and play sandlot ball when the time calls for it, his ability to consistently sit calmly under center with unfamiliar bodies around him are key movement skills to hone in on from his performances this summer. No, it wasn’t always easy as his 60 minutes of action against Baltimore saw him get knocked around more than he would have liked to, but it’s how you bounce back after negative yardage or a missed shot play that writes the narrative for guys in the NFL.
Like it was at North Carolina in 2020, it was peaches and cream when Howell was able to sit back and target Dyami Brown, Dazz Newsome, and the tandem of Javonte Williams and Michael Carter out of the backfield. But how did he perform when they were gone? Well, how’s 3,000-plus yards through the air, a 24:9 touchdown-to-interception ratio, and 828 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground last fall? Howell modified his game to further heighten the performance ceiling of the Tar Heels’ offense in 2021, and from Washington’s standpoint, presented a quarterback whose dual-threat ability will push for snaps every single day.
While we won’t see Howell in uniform to start the season as Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke take hold of the reins of Scott Turner’s offense, waiting in the wings is a player that looked every bit of a talent to watch moving down the line.
- Oct 05, 2022
- Oct 05, 2022