Tuesday, December 06, 2022

Commander in Chief: Sam Howell could be Washington’s starting QB sooner than you think

Outside of Pitt’s Kenny Pickett, who went to the Steelers with the 20th overall pick, the 2022 NFL Draft turned into one of those extremely rare exercises in which the overall value of the position didn’t overcook quarterbacks as draft prospects. had gone.

Desmond Ridder went to the Falcons in the third round with the 74th overall pick. Malik Willis went to the Titans in the third round with the 86th overall pick. Ole Miss’ Matt Coral went to the Panthers in the third round with the 94th overall pick.

and North Carolina’s Sam Howell was taken in the fifth round by the Washington Commanders with the 144th overall pick.

That last quarterback? Perhaps the biggest surprise. Had Howell been available to draft in 2021, after he completed 68.1% of passes and averaged 10.3 yards per attempt, throwing 30 touchdowns in seven interceptions, things could have been very different – especially as of the 2019 season. The latter in which Howell completed 61.4%. He had 8.6 yards per attempt, 38 touchdowns and seven interceptions. At the time, Howell looked to the whole world like the next great NFL prospect.

Then, ahead of the 2021 season, Howell lost two of his best running backs (Javont Williams, Michael Carter) and two of his best receivers (Diami Brown, Daz Newsom) to the NFL, and he was in the eye of the storm. Howell responded by completing 62.5% of his passes for 8.8 yards per attempt, 24 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

It looks like Howell’s past proficiency and decline from production until you see what Howell had to work with, and how he reacted with more stuff in his skill set. Howell ran for a total of 181 yards and six touchdowns in his first two collegiate seasons; He amassed 828 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns on 183 carries.

“Yeah, it was a little different,” Howell said of the switch from personnel he didn’t know—not on the same level, at least.. “Obviously, same system, but we just kind of Did a few different things last year. Last year a lot more quarterback-run stuff, and not as much vertical passing game. We’ve gotten more involved in the intermediate passing game, so, it’s all still by the same system, but Sure, we’ve done a few different things.

When asked about all those losses ahead of the 2021 season, Howell was adamant on the whole thing.

“Yeah, definitely a bit of a challenge, but to be honest with you, I think we had some really good players last year, and I wouldn’t have traded those guys for anyone in the world. They all really Talented players and work very hard. Obviously, we didn’t achieve everything we wanted to achieve this past year, but we learned a lot during it, so for that, I’m more than anything this past year I will not trade.”

As it turns out, Howell could be in a better position in 2022 than it is in 2021 from a global perspective. The Commanders have two quarterbacks Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke with any real NFL experience, and both of those quarterbacks have had enough up-and-down moments to leave things open to a greater or lesser degree in the competitive sense.

Commander was not looking for a quarterback in the draft, especially after being traded for Wentz, but Howell proved too tempting to avoid – especially far down the boards.

“Once we got Carson as our starter, we got off the quarterback train for the most part,” head coach Ron Rivera said after being picked up. “Sam we had something to fall on that we had to jump on. We had great grades on him – he was the tallest person on our board at the time … We think it was a home run for us. “

It could happen, and it could be a home run in the opening innings. Based on Howell’s tapes from the past two seasons, he shows the characteristics you would want in a young, developmental starter.

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(Bob Donan-USA Today Sports)

The then-Washington football team selected Dimi Brown in the third round of the 2021 draft, and Brown caught just 12 passes on 25 goals for 165 yards and no touchdowns. Brown showed a lot on the field for the Tar Heels in 2020, when he caught a team-high 55 passes and eight touchdowns for 1,099 yards. The relationship between Howell and Brown was undeniable, and this was particularly visible in deep shot plays. On this 37-yard touchdown pass against Virginia Tech, see how Howell gets the ideal touch and arc on the ball, making the catch much easier.

Brown knocks it around the downfield on this 44-yard touchdown, but Howell zips a dart right where Brown needs to be in order to catch up on the contest.

“He’s one of my best friends,” Howell said of Brown after the two reunited. “We had a lot of fun in North Carolina, so I can’t wait to play with him again.”

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(Scott Tetch-USA Today Sports)

Washington offensive coordinator Scott Turner’s ideal offense is no different from that of his father, Norv Turner, who has been on NFL fields for decades. The “Turner Passing Game” features three-digit vertical concepts from Don Corriel and Sid Gilman trees, with heavy play-action and a (hopefully) major run game. Even in today’s quick-game era, you’ll likely see a deeper drop than the NFL average.

Last season per Sports Info Solutions, Heinke took 168 dropbacks in five- and seven-stage drops, completing 89 of 157 passes for 1,177 air yards, 850 air yards, six touchdowns and eight interceptions. For the Colts in 2021, Wentz completed 71 of 128 passes on deep drops for 1,222 yards, 856 air yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions.

One of the reasons Commanders went all-out on Wentz is his great playability on plays that take longer to develop. Last season for the Tar Heels, Howell completed 16 passes for 307 yards, 262 air yards, two touchdowns and 36 attempts at an interception. Back in 2020, when North Carolina was using more downfield concepts, Howell completed five out of 10 deep-drop passes for 81 yards, 63 air yards, two touchdowns and no interception.

Howell is seen by some as a simple, RPO-based quarterback that isn’t a great downfield passer for what people think, but in 2020, he scored 1,125 yards, 11 touchdowns, and two interceptions. Last season, he completed 23 of 71 passes for 838 yards, 10 touchdowns and four interceptions.

What does that tell you? Howell can make accurate deep throws even without deep drops.

This faded touchdown last season against North Carolina State again showed Howell’s ability to throw the fastball – he’s got deep velocity along with timing, touch, and good location sense. This is how to graduate from arm strength to arm talent.

And this 33-yard touchdown against Florida State is about as good as it gets. Howell finds pressure in his front and middle, has to pocket his back, and still delivers a perfect deep throw to receiver Josh Downs. There are NFL quarterbacks who can’t do this consistently. The two people above Howell could very well be the two of them on the depth chart.

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(Charles LeClaire-USA Today Sports)

Greg Cosell, who has worked for NFL Films since 1979 and helped invent movie breakdowns in the public sense with the 1984 NFL Matchup Show, has a great phrase about the quarterback. As Greg says, you want your quarterback to be able to eliminate what isn’t there, and isolate what is there, in a hurry — and consistently. Otherwise there is too much noise on the field, and mistakes will happen.

Another thing about Howell is that he is more than a well-educated person. On this touchdown pass from Antoine Green against Pitt, Howell has a chance to check the backside return and frontside slot option route. Maybe he wants to fake the green all the way to the post, but you can see him going through the progress before he gets there—which also gives Greene time to make his move in the vicinity of the final zone. gives. The ability to understand what is the best option is obvious.

Howell needs some work on this – he’s still at a point in his development where he’s telegraphing things quite often – but you can see how things can play out over time.

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Howell isn’t just a good straight runner; He also has the ability to make accurate throws when running in second reaction situations. When Emery Simmons completes this 18-yard, Howell slips out of the pocket, but instead of making a random throw, he waits for the in-cut to develop on the switch release, and makes the right throw.

And when it’s time to collide and go, whether a scuffle or a designed concept, Howell has all the tricks you could want a guy downfield.

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(Adam Richins-USA Today Sports)

There are times when Howell will go for the hero’s ball when he really shouldn’t – while he’s skilled for the most part, this interception against Pitt is exactly what you do don’t Want from your quarterback. It’s not “Carson Wentz throwing picks with his left hand” stuff, but QB1 needs to know when it’s time to avoid YOLO balls and live for the next down. The Commanders already have enough YOLO with Wentz.

Howell also took 49 sacks last season, and a lot of them were on him—he needs to settle the score in his head between quarterbacks and running back in situations like this against South Carolina. Things like this don’t really benefit anyone.

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(Jim Deadmon-USA Today Sports)

Given Howell’s size (6-foot-1,218 pounds) and occasional daredevil sandlot style, the Automatic has been compared to Baker Mayfield, and there is clearly some physical resemblance. Howell’s game has elements of Mayfield, but I’ll compare him to another mid-round draft pick, who had to compete against a recently acquired veteran quarterback, and made it clear he was the guy in his rookie minicamp.

In 2012, the Seahawks signed Matt Flynn to a deal that was lucrative beyond anything Flynn had made on the field, and they also picked up Russell Wilson in the third round. Halfway through the preseason, everyone knew Wilson was the Guy, and Flynn was not. Media, fans, coaches, teammates. It was as clear as a proverb on someone’s face.

Not that Howell projected out of the box over time, but Wilson didn’t project that way, either—if that was the case, Wilson would have been a top-five pick.

In the same draft, the then Washington Redskins took on Robert Griffin III with the second overall pick, and Kirk Cousins ​​in the fourth round. The decision to make Cousins ​​the team’s eventual starter had a lot to do with Griffin’s injuries and Jay Gruden’s stubborn insistence on one kind of quarterback over the other, but the point stands. There are all kinds of opportunities for quarterbacks to exceed their estimates immediately, and who can say Sam Howell can’t be an example? Based on his 2020 tape, he would have been very high in this class in the QB1 and 2021 class, which was far more top-heavy.

So, in the “we’re not saying, we’re just saying” department… don’t be surprised if Sam Howell becomes Washington’s commander in chief sooner than you think.


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