Has Sam Howell done enough to become Commanders QB1 in 2023?

(Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Howell
(Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Howell /

Has quarterback Sam Howell done enough to become the Washington Commanders’ top option under center in 2023?

After dropping all the way into the fifth round of last year’s draft, Sam Howell began his NFL journey with a point to prove. Although the Washington Commanders took their time with the quarterback, there was a lot to like about his production when finally given a chance to shine in Week 18 against the Dallas Cowboys.

Washington’s quarterback situation was a mess overall in 2022. Their trade for Carson Wentz didn’t go according to plan and even though Taylor Heinicke flashed promise, it’s unlikely he’ll become the team’s long-term option under center.

This leaves Howell, who proved that there was no occasion too big, leaving hopes for the future despite Washington failing to obtain a second-straight playoff appearance.

The former North Carolina star completed 57.9 percent of his passes for 169 yards, one touchdown, and an interception versus Dallas’ formidable defense. Howell was sacked three times, which is in keeping with how much the Commanders’ offensive line failed to protect effectively throughout the campaign.

One could make a strong argument for Washington starting Howell sooner than they did. But head coach Ron Rivera opted for a more cautious approach with many unknowns surrounding his NFL capabilities.

Sam Howell faces a fight for Washington Commanders QB job

Now that Howell has a small sample size to build off, a significant opportunity awaits the player in 2023 if the necessary improvements are made during the upcoming preparation period. However, the chances are high that extra competition for the starting berth is sought via free agency, the trade market, or the NFL Draft.

This is something Howell should be fully aware of. And make no mistake, it’s a challenge the player is sure to relish.

Howell’s early impressions were positive based on comments made by Thor Nystrom of Fantasy Pros during a recent podcast appearance. Even if the analyst conceded Washington could swing for the fences with someone like Anthony Richardson if he makes it to No. 16 overall.

"“Washington is in a decent situation. They liked what they saw from Sam Howell at the end of the season. They could shoot the moon on (Anthony) Richardson’s upside, go into next year, and know that Richardson is not going to be starting. If one or both is a bonanza, then great! If one didn’t work out, hopefully, the other one did.”"

Washington might also go down the veteran route once again despite being burned by their acquisition of Wentz. This provides the Commanders with a bridge option if they feel like Howell needs extra time to ready himself for prolonged starting duties.

It’s easy to forget that Howell was once projected to be the No. 1 overall selection before taking a step back in 2021. While there’s much hard work ahead for the player and his coaches, one cannot rule out the possibility of him becoming Commanders’ QB1 when the new campaign begins.

If this happens, it’s great news for the Commanders, who are desperately seeking stability within a positional group that was the catalyst behind their eventual demise last time around. Howell ticked all the boxes – albeit briefly – but what progress the signal-caller makes this offseason will determine his short-term aspirations.

This will be fascinating to watch. Something every Commanders fan should monitor closely.

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