Could quarterback Sam Howell benefit from the Washington Commanders implementing some RPO concepts into their offense in 2023?
There remains some quiet intrigue about what the Washington Commanders can get from quarterback Sam Howell next season. Head coach Ron Rivera is pushing all his chips into the middle regarding the former fifth-round selection, who has the talent to take this offense up a notch provided he adjusts well to increased responsibilities.
Howell is working with one career start under his belt, which represents a potential concern. The signal-caller has a lot working in his favor, but there's just no telling for sure until we see him on the field in Week 1 against the Arizona Cardinals and beyond.
The Commanders have Eric Bieniemy running the offense this time around. He's come from the Kansas City Chiefs having played a significant role in Patrick Mahomes' development, which Washington hopes can continue - albeit to a lesser extent - with Howell in a different environment.
Commanders could deploy RPO-heavy offense for Sam Howell
It'll be interesting to see how Bieniemy schemes things up to benefit Howell. ESPN's respected analyst Mina Kimes - who compared the North Carolina product to Russell Wilson - indicated via USA Today Sports that adopting an RPO-based system plays into the quarterback's strengths.
"He can run. He averaged over eight yards per carry that last year at UNC. Broke a ton of tackles, build-wise almost reminds me of like a young Russell Wilson. So I would not be surprised if the designed QB run is also a big part of the offense, coupled with the RPO. I suspect the Commanders, with their emphasis on the run, will face a lot of single high coverage, so there will be a lot of one-on-one opportunities for Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson downfield. And he can hit those throws. Another thing, he has a quick release. RPOs were a huge part of the UNC offense. They’re also a huge part of the Chiefs offense. You’ve got offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy coming to Washington now. So I expect that to be a big part of this Commanders offense with Howell."- Mina Kimes via USA Today Sports
One of the most underrated areas of Howell's game is his escapability out of the pocket to generate yards on the ground. This was evident when the player's primary difference-makers all departed for the NFL before his final college campaign, rushing for 828 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Washington has a potentially potent one-two running back punch with Brian Robinson Jr. and Antonio Gibson. If Howell adds to this and Bieniemy conjures up some RPO magic, it'll keep defenses honest enough for some downfield opportunities.
The Wilson comparison was interesting. While the Pro Bowler failed to meet expectations last season following his high-profile trade to the Denver Broncos, the Commanders would be doing cartwheels if their new man under center went on to achieve similar accomplishments.
Howell is an even-keeled individual who has done a great job in uncertain circumstances across the franchise over early workouts. The challenges will become far stiffer at training camp, but there's nothing to suggest Bieniemy won't have his No. 1 ready to rock within a system that's tailor-made for his particular skill set.
Just how many run-pass option plays reside within Bieniemy's scheme remains to be seen. But considering how successful Howell is managing these concepts, they should be implemented early and often no matter the opposition.