Are the Washington Commanders putting too much pressure on Sam Howell and what can they do to make things easier for the quarterback?
Sam Howell is arguably performing way above expectations through the opening five weeks of 2023. The Washington Commanders were anticipating more stability at the quarterback position after countless years of failed options, which has been particularly positive throughout their recent three-game losing stretch after a promising start.
Howell isn't without blame, obviously. But he is way down the list of problems currently enveloping the Commanders heading into their Week 6 contest at the Atlanta Falcons - a game that already looks like a must-win with pressure mounting on those in positions of power.
The former fifth-round selection is making the best of a bad situation. Washington's offensive line is conceding way too many hits and the once-vaunted defense isn't performing up to their preseason expectancy to further complicate matters.
Commanders must provide Sam Howell with more balance
This is undoubtedly putting too much pressure on Howell's young shoulders. In fairness to the player, he's coping well despite recent results not going in their favor, but head coach Ron Rivera is looking for more balance moving forward based on his comments via USA Today Sports.
"It’s interesting, and I had a conversation with EB [offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy], and that was one of the things that we talked about; we didn’t want to have to do, but we’ve had to do, unfortunately, that has put so much on Sam [Howell] early. That’s expediting his development, that’s for sure, but we don’t want that. We want to be balanced; we want to be able to run, use play action, and drop back passing. We want to be able to use those phases of offense as opposed to getting stuck and saying, ‘Okay, we gotta try and do this and try and do this to give yourself a chance to win."- Ron Rivera via USA Today Sports
While this will increase Howell's belief that he actually belongs, it's a lot to ask. The North Carolina product cannot do it alone, so figuring out a way to start games much quicker is the most important factor in this equation by a considerable margin.
Give Howell a fighting chance to win games rather than mountains to climb. Have some pride on the defensive side of things to actually prevent the opposition from seizing the initiative during opening exchanges. That might help a ton.
The offensive line is what it is at this juncture. It'll once again be a top priority when free agency and the draft roll around, but establishing the run and allowing Howell to get the football out quickly should be the course of action until better reinforcements can be acquired.
Howell is the quarterback, so he'll be tasked with more responsibilities than most. But football is a team game and considering his NFL journey is still in its infancy, others within the locker room should be moving heaven and earth to ensure his big opportunity goes exactly according to the script.
Eric Bieniemy seems to have worked out how best to utilize Howell's gifts. This cohesion and confidence are only going to develop further over the next 12 games, but unless other position groups and specific individuals don't raise their respective contributions, it's hard to envisage a scenario where results improve.