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The Commanders ‘in need of new blood’ at quarterback in 2024

For a bit in 2023, it looked like Sam Howell may prove Ron Rivera was right all along to gamble on the 2022 fifth-round pick as the Washington Commanders quarterback. Through 10 weeks, Howell led the NFL in passing yards and was among the league leaders in “big-time throws,” according to Pro Football Focus.

Unfortunately for Howell, things fell apart over the final seven weeks, and he was benched twice. Howell was dealt a lousy hand in 2023, with Rivera pinning so many hopes on the young passer, knowing there were issues on the offensive line and at tight end. Additionally, offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy refused to run the ball. Howell led the NFL in passing attempts, while the Commanders were at the bottom of the league in rushing attempts.

None of that was a recipe for success for any young quarterback, especially one with some questions.

Howell’s play declined sharply. He took too many sacks in the first half of the season when he played well, but in the second half, he reduced his sacks significantly, but his turnovers increased dramatically. He lacked confidence throughout the final quarter of the season.

When the Commanders landed the No. 2 overall pick in the 2024 NFL draft, the quarterback position became the top priority for the next regime.

Nick Shook of NFL.com recently predicted quarterback situations this offseason and had 10 teams in two different categories. Washington was one of four teams in the “in need of new blood” category.

Here’s Shook’s assessment of the Commanders’ QB situation this offseason:

Ron Rivera tied himself to Sam Howell in 2023, and for a stretch, he looked somewhat like a fortune teller. But honestly, as soon as the franchise’s ownership changed hands, a shift felt inevitable, save for an unlikely run of on-field success. That didn’t happen, and Rivera lost his job. The transition could also spell doom for Howell, who struggled with turnovers down the stretch and all but wiped out the goodwill he’d built with some surprisingly strong early-season performances. A new regime might not see the same potential in Howell as Rivera did, and with the second overall pick in their possession, Washington is in a prime position to select a new savior under center from what has the makings of an enticing QB class, with USC’s Caleb Williams and North Carolina’s Drake Maye having declared their intentions to enter the draft. To some, it’d be awkward seeing Washington replace one UNC quarterback (Howell) with another, but that’s just the way things go sometimes. It’s a cold, results-driven world, and it sure feels like a new signal-caller is destined for Washington.

Howell has two years remaining on his rookie deal. Regardless of how one feels about his performance as Washington’s starting quarterback in 2023, he proved he could play in the NFL. And perhaps a new staff will give him a chance in 2024. Howell, on his rookie deal, is a valuable asset to Washington. The Commanders could use him as a backup quarterback or a bridge if they select a rookie.

Shook mentions Maye coming to Washington and asking whether it would be awkward. Maye followed Howell at UNC, and they played together for one season. The two have remained close since Howell entered the NFL and communicate regularly, so it may not be awkward, as some might suggest.

Story originally appeared on Commanders Wire