By Adam Aniba
It's been a forgone conclusion for many Washington fans, that Taylor Heinicke would be the backup quarterback this season, considering he was the starter in '21. In their first preseason matchup, new Washington signal caller Carson Wentz went 10/13 for 74 yards passing and Taylor Heinicke threw for only 29 yards on 4 of 9 attempts.
In his first career NFL preseason action, 5th round rookie Sam Howell had himself a day, dazzling fans in attendance.
In his debut, Howell threw for 148 total yards, going 8/15 on the day with a 82.4 passer rating. He also displayed his ability as a runner with 19 yards rushing on 3 attempts (6.3 per carry avg) for 2 rushing TDs. T
he former Tar Heel signal caller displayed the improvisational ability, which endeared him to The Burgundy and Gold Report, leading to a pre-draft spotlight in our February '22 Scouting Report. Although Howell was drafted much later than projected, he fell to Washington nonetheless.
One preseason game isn't enough to solidify the rookie as QB#2, but it went a long way towards his short term development. It was his poise and ability to adjust on the fly that stood out on the day.
The local media had praise for the rookie quarterback's performance as well, including ESPN's John Keim.
"Give Howell credit: Showed poise in the pocket; escaped from some troubles and calmly delivered the ball. Nice job by the rookie."
After losing his top running backs and receivers prior to the '21 college football season, one of which being Dyami Brown, Howell realized he needed to generate more offense on his own. After Howell had a career passing year in '20, throwing for 3,586 yards and 30 TD's/7 ints, the offense looked dramatically different in '21.
As mentioned, losing the aforementioned Brown (WSH) and Dazz Newsome (CHI), led to a decline in passing yards for Howell (3,056) and a UNC offense that struggled during Howell's final season. The UNC quarterback, who wasn't previously viewed as a dual-threat signal caller, embraced the idea of scrambling to move the chains and open up passing lanes.
In fact, Howell rushed for only 181 total yards and 6 TDs combined during his freshman and sophomore seasons, but had 828 yards on the ground for 11 TDs in '21.
During the exhibition matchup vs Carolina, Howell showed the same moxy and quick decision making that endeared him to UNC fans.
Heinicke currently has the upper hand as Washington's backup signal caller. If Howell continues to display his ability to adjust on the fly, while he learns the system, things could change in a hurry tough.
Wentz will likely see little action during the next preseason game vs Kansas City and a quarter or so in the preseason finale vs Baltimore as the dress rehearsal game. This will lead to Howell getting extended reps, against potential 2nd/3rd string defenses and an opportunity to leave a lasting impression on HC Ron Rivera.
If the rookie QB can add a few more splash plays, particularly in the 2:00 minute offense, Howell could be QB2 heading into the season and dare I say, one snap away on game days from being a potential starter.