Could Washington Commanders quarterback Sam Howell's unknowns be his biggest strength during his first season as the starter in 2023?
There seems to be a different opinion about Sam Howell everywhere you look. The projections are wild surrounding a player who the Washington Commanders hope can be their starting quarterback long-term, which is down to his complete lack of legitimate NFL experience heading to a critical 2023 campaign.
Howell looked like he could be a promising signal-caller when the Commanders finally named him their starter in Week 18 against the Dallas Cowboys. It wasn't perfect, but the former fifth-round selection was accurate, mobile, and got his team over the line when push came to shove.
This was a solid platform from which to build, but no more than that. The Commanders have placed a tremendous amount of faith in Howell, giving him a clear path to the No. 1 spot despite signing veteran free-agent Jacoby Brissett in free agency.
Commaders QB Sam Howell can turn unknowns into positives
It's been a lot for Howell to take in thanks to Eric Bieniemy's arrival and the installation of a new, creative offensive scheme. There have been some expected growing pains, but he's made believers of Jahan Dotson, Terry McLaurin, and Logan Thomas among others - three men who'll be tasked with significant responsibilities in the passing game next season.
Howell was a prolific starter in college at North Carolina. But in NFL terms, he remains an unknown quantity. According to Will Brinson of CBS Sports, that is something he and Jordan Love have working in their favor after placing them in Tier 6 of his quarterback rankings.
"I wanted to put [Sam] Howell and [Jordan] Love higher because I think they both possess upside the public is unnecessarily scoffing at, but there wasn't a spot above that fit and I certainly wouldn't bet my life on either being a good or great NFL quarterback. Additionally the style of play -- including aggressive use of their legs from the position -- creates a ceiling/floor level you don't see from the Tier 5 guys. If both Howell and Love were in the NFC postseason it wouldn't be that shocking."- Will Brinson, CBS Sports
Howell might be a surprise teams don't see coming over the first few weeks until there is substantial film to go off. After that, it'll come down to the game-to-game planning of Bieniemy and the signal-caller's execution.
This should be enough for the Commanders to be competitive. The offensive line must make improvements after Washington's revamp this spring, but their defense should be enough to keep them in most games - so Howell will have some chances to prove his worth as a clutch asset capable of manning the position for the next decade.
There is plenty riding on Howell's production in 2023. Jobs are being scrutinized heavily as Josh Harris' ownership group gets set to enter the fray once official NFL approval is granted on July 20, so the quarterback and others cannot afford to make any false moves with potential landmark alterations on the immediate horizon.
This only adds to the unknowns surrounding the Commanders next season. Fortunately for Howell, he's one of the few within the franchise that can actually put it to good use.