Needing live reps after playing just one game his rookie season, Howell played the entire first half and looked sharp, completing 19 of 25 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns as Washington entered the half with a 17-14 lead.
"I thought Sam did exactly what we were expecting him to do," coach Ron Rivera said, via the team's transcript. "He went out, executed, took control of the offense, took control of the huddle, and did a good job at the line of scrimmage. There are a couple things I know that he does want to have back, but I thought he executed and handled the situation, circumstances the way he needed to."
Howell boasts a good arm, solid accuracy, poise in the pocket and athletic ability to escape pressure. Monday night, he displayed an uncanny ability to wiggle out of sacks, keep his eyes downfield and make plays. Washington has to love the young pigskin-slinger's aggressive mentality.
"I think I've grown a lot," Howell said. "I'm way more comfortable in the offense and just getting these two experiences with EB (offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy). It's our first time going through a game together, and think getting the two-minute drill experience tonight was critical for us. There's definitely a lot of good that can come out of this. I'm pleased with how it went."
Howell had a few rough reps -- like all green QBs -- including taking a couple of sacks. However, as he has all offseason, he immediately bounced back from those bad plays. On Washington's opening drive, he took a bad sack, turning a second-and-2 into a third-and-15 when he should have gotten the ball out. He erased the error with a dart the next play over the middle for 16 yards to tight end Cole Turner. And the drive marched on.
Howell admitted that he must clean up some of those issues as we head toward games that count toward the 2023 record.
"I just think offensively, I think we did some good things, put some good drives together," he said. "Obviously, there's some stuff to clean up, some sacks, both I think. I don't know how many sacks we had, maybe two, I think, and they were both my fault, so I got to do a better job with that stuff. We'll clean it up. But, we made some plays, you know, a lot of guys made some plays and we got good work with a two-minute drill, which was successful for us. So, there was a lot of good that came out of there."
Thus far, it's hard not to like Howell's development after getting just one game last season. When Rivera first noted in the spring that the second-year signal-caller would start the offseason as QB1, it felt like a placeholder. Not so fast. Howell has taken the chance and run away with the gig.
"I thought how he handled the stage last year against Dallas was one of the reasons we feel confident in who he is," Rivera said. "And then we saw him perform today. We saw him perform last week. There's a lot of reason to be optimistic, but again, we still have a long way to go with a lot of things to learn, grow, and develop. I think Eric and what the offensive staff is doing on that side of the ball has been really terrific. It's exciting. It really is. I think it's infectious because I do think it impacts our defensive players as well."
Now the tough part begins: continuing his positive play into the regular season when the competition ramps up, defenses scheme and take away tendencies, and the games count.
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