3 reasons why the Commanders failed QB Sam Howell in 2023

Sam Howell was destined to fail...

Sam Howell and Eric Bieniemy
Sam Howell and Eric Bieniemy / Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
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Sam Howell needed more plays under center

Eric Bieniemy didn't do enough to keep defenses guessing this season. Not when No. 14 had just 20 play-action pass attempts from under center on first down, per John Keim of ESPN.

An under-center offense puts defenses in more of a bind deciding to play run or pass. Playing run wasn't something many teams needed to worry about against the Washington Commanders. Not when Bieniemy called a mere 359 rushing attempts, the fewest in the NFL.

Teams knew they could tee off on Howell. They could concentrate on throwing a myriad of blitz pressure and disguised coverage at a young signal-caller being left in the line of fire.

What truly galls is the Commanders have three capable running backs, Brian Robinson Jr., Antonio Gibson and Chris Rodriguez Jr. They also have a solid blocking tight end, John Bates, and a fullback, Alex Armah.

All five of those players should have been at the forefront of a run-first offense to protect a mobile quarterback. Howell being allowed to target a deep and gifted group of receivers via play action would have meant more big plays and more wins.

It's how the Packers got Love up to speed. It's also why schematic failings are the worst crimes against Howell.

Fortunately, things should change if, as expected, the Commanders hire Detroit Lions' offensive coordinator Ben Johnson to replace Ron Rivera. Keim detailed how effective the play-caller scheme has been running from under center, maximizing the use of play-action to keep the chains moving.

Those things would transform Washington's offense for the better, but the changes are likely going to come too late for Howell. The Commanders still appear set to draft his replacement with the No. 2 overall selection, leaving him facing an uncertain future heading into Year 3 of his professional career.