How long should the Washington Commanders play starting quarterback Sam Howell in their preseason opener at the Cleveland Browns?
After Sam Howell got the majority of first-team reps under center throughout training camp, it came as no surprise to see Ron Rivera name the former fifth-round selection as his starter for Preseason Week 1 at the Cleveland Browns. What comes next is a journey into the unknown for everyone involved.
The Washington Commanders clearly believe in Howell. It's been an up-and-down offseason for the one-time North Carolina star, who's grown in stature, is learning from his mistakes, and gaining the trust of teammates and coaches alike for good measure.
Going up against Washington's elite defense has been a crash course for Howell. Eric Bieniemy's high demands have come under the microscope in recent days thanks in no small part to Ron Rivera's ill-advised comments, but the signal-caller has responded well to his new play-caller and the pair seem to have hit it off in the best possible way.
How much will Commanders QB Sam Howell play in Preseason Week 1?
Howell might be starting tomorrow night, but how long he's on the field remains to be seen. Risking important players in meaningless games isn't the wisest move all things considered, but there is a real need to get the second-year-pro meaningful snaps under live fire considering he's got just one career start under his belt.
Rivera is knowledgeable enough to know what's needed. Having Bieniemy around is something else that should assist with the planning process and whether any in-game adjustments are needed depending on how things play out early on.
One would expect Howell to play the first series or two. Anything more than that seems unlikely, but it's also dependent on how the player performs right out of the gate.
If Howell looks smooth and leads the Commanders on a scoring drive, then Rivera will probably take him out. If things are a bit disjointed and the timing isn't there, keeping him in a little longer might be the best course of action.
In terms of the season's outlook for Howell, it's hanging in the balance. But according to Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports, having Bieniemy and stud wide receiver Terry McLaurin to call upon might be enough to maximize what appears to be an exceptional opportunity.
"While [Sam] Howell isn't the most pinpoint accurate passer, he possesses a lot of the same attributes -- albeit at a lesser degree -- as the game's best quarterbacks. Of course, he'll be more comfortable in Year 2 than his rookie campaign, and while I don't adore his supporting cast, [Terry] McLaurin and new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy are two aces in the hole for Howell. The Commanders will feel good about the long-term future at the quarterback spot for the first time in a long time after Howell's second season."- Chris Trapasso, CBS Sports
Howell is still in the transition period from perennial backup to prominent starter. The Commanders are likely going to start slowly before perhaps giving him a quarter or even a half next week, which can hopefully add to the solid foundation he's already built throughout the summer en route to a profitable campaign.
There is a chance this all goes wrong, which would see Rivera and others pay with their jobs. Howell's got a lot of natural ability, so if the Commanders can nurture it in a positive manner, it's all systems go.
Football is back, people. Now is the time for everyone to get behind Howell in the hope he can bring the good times back to Washington after so much underachievement and abject misery.
It's a lofty goal, obviously. But don't dismiss the notion entirely.