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Training Camp Notebook | Inside Sam Howell's 'awesome' relationship with Taylor Heinicke

08012022 Monday Training Camp EF 978

There's plenty for Sam Howell to learn as he works his way through his first NFL training camp.

There's no speculation about the pecking order at quarterback with Carson Wentz as the starter and Taylor Heinicke as the backup. That leaves Howell, a fifth-round pick, time to develop for the possibility of contributing for the Washington Commanders at some point in the future.

Howell understands and embraces his role, and it helps that he has a player like Heinicke to provide some guidance.

"Taylor's been awesome for me," Howell told the media Friday morning. "Obviously, he's been in this offense for a long time, and he knows his job."

Howell has one goal as a rookie: he wants to do what he's coached to do. He wants to learn how to go through his reads and get a better grasp of the playbook. All of that comes with reps, but Washington's playbook is known for being particularly robust.

That's where having a player like Heinicke comes in handy. He's known offensive coordinator Scott Turner since their days together with the Minnesota Vikings in 2015, so he has a strong knowledge of the system.

"I'm just very appreciative that he is willing to help a young guy like me," Howell said.

As the third quarterback, Howell doesn't get as many reps as Wentz or Heinicke, but he's been paying attention on the sideline.

"I try to get a mental rep on every single play that we run in practice. So, I think it's only gonna come with reps and these preseason games."

Here are some other observations from Friday's practice.

-- The defense was the star of practice today, particularly during goal line drills. They were led by Casey Toohill, who was the clear standout of the day. Toohill started things off with a tackle for a loss on Antonio Gibson, sprinting from across the play to bring the running back down. A few plays later, Toohill was there to recover a fumble that popped loose from Gibson's grasp. Ron Rivera called Toohill a "try hard" player during his Thursday press conference, and plays like those he made today are prime examples of why he's earned that moniker.

-- Washington's pass-catchers were also having a difficult time getting open during the drill. On one play, Wentz rolled out to his right to target tight end Armani Rogers, but Jamin Davis was running step for step with him, forcing Wentz to throw it away. Rivera and fellow linebacker Cole Holcomb have been praising Davis for the last week, saying that he's shown steady improvements. Year 2 will be a big opportunity for Davis to prove the praise is warranted.

-- Percy Butler got the chance to show his prowess as a run-stopper early in practice. He met J.D. McKissic, who was running up the middle of the defense, at the line of scrimmage for go gain on the play. Butler is a player who quietly does his job, but he does have moments where he flashes the potential that Rivera brings up on occasion.

-- Gibson continues to look strong in camp. After missing the first week of practice, Gibson has been looking unbothered by any injuries in Week 2. He scored a touchdown today during goal line drills, as he hauled in a pass from Wentz. Gibson has high hopes for Year 3, but staying healthy has occasionally been an issue. So far, it's clear that the effort he made to lose weight this past offseason has paid off.

-- Brian Robinson has lived up to his reputation as a downhill back, but he's also shown that he can be more versatile in the right circumstance. He opened the day with a run to the outside that resulted in a 15-yard gain, and he's been a solid pass-catcher as well. Like quarterback, the division of labor is clear at running back with Robinson being the third back in the rotation, but it's reassuring to see that he can handle a different role if needed.

-- The interior offensive line is starting to take form. Chase Roullier is still getting ramped up, although he is seeing some time during 11-on-11 drills, so Keith Ismael was taking starting reps today. The spot to keep an eye on is right guard, and it seems like Wes Schweitzer is starting to get a firmer grasp on the spot with Trai Turner still out.

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