Should the Washington Commanders play starting quarterback Sam Howell during their final preseason outing against the Cincinnati Bengals?
Sam Howell came into the offseason with far more questions than answers about his potential as the Washington Commanders starting quarterback in 2023. There seemed to be a quiet level of confidence within the building about what he could accomplish, but the concerns were obvious with just one career start under his belt.
These fears have diminished significantly heading into Washington's final preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals at FedEx Field. Howell's confidence has risen to a level where he now looks like a potential franchise signal-caller, installing belief among his teammates and displaying underrated leadership skills that should also serve the Commanders well when competitive action arrives.
Howell's stock soared through the roof after a starring display on Monday Night Football to end the Baltimore Ravens' preseason unbeaten streak. The signal-caller was given meaningful involvement in the first half and took full advantage, which came just a few short days after Ron Rivera confirmed his status as the team's No. 1 option under center.
Commanders shouldn't play Sam Howell in preseason finale
Considering Howell doesn't have much in the way of experience, many have speculated whether Rivera will put him on the field tomorrow night (Saturday). However, that's too big of a risk with little to prove before their Week 1 game versus the Arizona Cardinals arrives.
This was a sentiment echoed by offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, who stated via Washington's official website that Howell's right where he needs to be in terms of progress whether he suits up in Preseason Week 3 or not.
"His progression is right where you would like it to be. He's stayed the course. He's learned a lot just being out there every single day. I think watching Jacoby go out there and sling it around, making all the throws and letting everything go free, that has helped him. Because Jacoby is an outspoken individual in that room, and he's helped Sam tremendously."- Eric Bieniemy via Commanders.com
The Commanders got everything they needed from Howell last time out. Jeopardizing his hard work by increasing the risk of injury seems foolish and unlikely in equal measure.
There is a tremendous amount of pressure on the Commanders to produce next season - the first under Josh Harris' ownership group. The Commanders could be without stud wide receiver Terry McLaurin thanks to a turf toe sustained against the Ravens, so throwing almost any starter aside from the kicking team onto the field this weekend might come with grave ramifications attached.
Had Howell played a few snaps last time around, it's a different story. But knowing how Rivera goes about his business, the prominent reps accumulated by the former fifth-round pick out of North Carolina indicate he'll be getting the night off.
In this scenario, the next time anyone will see Howell under center is the Commanders' competitive opener at what promises to be an electrifying FedEx Field And make no mistake, this is a man with jobs in his hands and the weight of an expectant franchise on his young shoulders.
What comes next is down to Howell with the biggest opportunity imaginable in front of him. How he performs will go a long way to determining what the Commanders' long-term future will look like.