ASHBURN, Va. -- Commanders head coach Ron Rivera named Sam Howell the team's starting quarterback on Friday, a move that seemed all but official throughout much of the offseason. The Commanders open their season at home Sept. 10 against the Cardinals.
"I talked with Eric Bieniemy and Tavita [Pritchard] yesterday, and after our first preseason game, after both those join practices, I'm gonna name Sam our starter this year going forward," Rivera said. "He basically met the challenge that we talked about, and that was seeing the growth and improvement from OTAs and minicamp and then talked about going into training camp: continue to grow, show us what he's capable of, and we've been very pleased with it to the point where I decided yesterday that we were gonna name him the starter going into the regular season."
Rivera added that Howell solidified his place after the first joint practice with the Ravens, and Rivera realized, "Sam's our guy."
Howell, 22, was a fifth-round pick -- and the sixth quarterback selected -- in the 2022 NFL Draft after a record-setting career at North Carolina. He spent much of his rookie season behind Carson Wentz and/or Taylor Heinicke. With the Commanders eliminated from playoff contention in Week 18, though, Howell started against the Cowboys, going 11 for 19 for 169 yards with one touchdown and one interception through the air with five carries for 35 yards and a score on the ground in Washington's 26-6 win.
With Wentz (unsigned) and Heinicke (Falcons) gone, Howell entered the offseason as the de facto QB1 and remained there even after the team Jacoby Brissett in March. Howell received essentially all of the first-team reps in training camp and put together a against the Browns in Week 1 of the preseason, throwing a touchdown to Jahan Dotson on his third and final drive of the game.
Howell Ravens on Tuesday and Wednesday, and Rivera seemed to be inching closer to naming him the starter.against the
"Well, again, I said I gotta sit down with both [offensive coordinator] Eric [Bieniemy] and [QBs coach] Tavita [Pritchard] and really evaluate it and make sure he's doing the things that we need him to do," Rivera said Wednesday. "And yesterday he had a really good day. We're really pleased with it after having to watch the tape, and we'll see how it is after we get a chance to watch this tape together. We're traveling today, so we'll sit down tomorrow and go through it and talk about Sam and really just evaluate that."
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Howell and Bieniemy hope to rejuvenate an offense that has struggled during Rivera's tenure. Over the last three years, Washington ranks 29th in offensive points per game, 27th in yards per game and 26th in passer rating. Rivera hopes the addition of Bieniemy's Terry McLaurin, Dotson, Brian Robinson Jr. and Antonio Gibson will turn those trends around.to a strong skill-position group headlined by
Washington's struggles at quarterback specifically go back even further than that. Howell will be the franchise's seventh different Week 1 starter in as many seasons following Wentz (2022), Ryan Fitzpatrick (2021), Dwayne Haskins (2020), Case Keenum (2019), Alex Smith (2018) and Kirk Cousins (2017).