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Bieniemy: Sam Howell has done 'a heck of a job' this offseason

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We're still months away from actual football being played, but this summer's OTAs will provide fans, and coaches for that matter, with glimpses of what the Washington Commanders' roster will look like once Week 1 comes around Sept. 10. 

This is particularly true for offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, who is getting his first in-person look at incumbent starting quarterback Sam Howell as he tries to earn the job for the regular season.  

Take his evaluation of how Howell looks in shorts and a helmet against no pass rush with as many grains of salt as you want, but Bieniemy has been impressed with what he has seen from the second-year quarterback. 

"Sam's done a heck of a job," Bieniemy told reporters at the Commanders' flag football event on May 20. "Sam's very professional. He's very critical of himself."

It's not much, but it is an encouraging sentiment given how much head coach Ron Rivera has preached that Howell is ready for the opportunity to be the Commanders' starting quarterback. The Commanders were already high on him when they took him with their fifth-round pick in 2022, but they started to see a possible path towards him being a long-term answer at the position near the end of his rookie year.

Howell's performance against the Dallas Cowboys in his first career start was the culmination of those improvements, but before that, Rivera and his staff saw progress in his decision-making and footwork once he became the primary backup.

"A couple of times some things happened in practice, and you would see him fix it himself," Rivera said back in March. "That was always something that you look for. There is something that is not right, a quarterback will fix it. He was doing things like that probably mid to end of the season, so we felt really comfortable about it."

Check out the top photos of the Washington Commanders going through Wednesday's practice during the offseason workout program. (Photos by Emilee Fails and Kourtney Carroll/Washington Commanders).

Bieniemy was already intrigued by Howell when he became the Commanders' offensive coordinator. Most of what he had to go on was what Howell had done at North Carolina, where he smashed several program records. He was still going through his evaluation of the roster at the time, but he could tell that Howell had "dynamic" ability and could "make throws from different platforms."

He was also a fan of the flex he had after his rushing touchdown against the Cowboys.

"I saw that flex, and it got me fired up," Bieniemy said after his introductory press conference in February.

What Howell has been able to do since the start of the offseason workout program, albeit in practices with little to no contact, has helped confirm what Bieniemy already thought about him.

"He's very self-aware, but on top of that, he's talented," Bieniemy said. "He wants to be the very best that he can be, and when it's all said and done with, he just wants to do whatever he can to help this team to grow in the right direction."

Howell's teammates have also been impressed with the way he has carried himself.

"He can make every single throw on the football field," Jahan Dotson said on the Schultz Report podcast. "It's crazy to see … He's making it look effortless. I always say this to the receivers: he looks so cool in the pocket. He drops back, it's so smooth and he just lets it fly."

Here's a gentle reminder: Howell still needs to earn the job once training camp starts in late July. He'll be competing against veteran Jacoby Brissett, who Bieniemy also had high praise for by saying he is "the ultimate professional" who has years of experience that he can share with Howell, regardless of whether he is the starter.

There is plenty of time between now and when Washington must name a starter. Rivera has been true to his word and given Howell "the first crack" at the job, and so far, things have gone according to plan.

"I felt comfortable saying that this is the guy that's going to get the chance," Rivera said.

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