Eric Bieniemy has not spent much time watching Washington Commanders quarterback Sam Howell yet. Aside from Howell's time at UNC, the biggest sample size Bieniemy has had of the quarterback was Washington's season finale against the Dallas Cowboys.
One of the things that stood out to Bieniemy the most during that Commanders 26-6 win: the flex that Howell gave after he plowed through Cowboys defenders on a nine-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
"That was some good s*," Bieniemy told Howell with a smile after his introductory press conference.
Despite Ron Rivera saying that Howell will likely enter the offseason workout program as the starter with a chance to earn the job during the season, there is still much for him to prove. Should Howell end up being the team's starter, Bieniemy will be tasked with getting the most out of his talents as the assistant head coach/offensive coordinator.
Bieniemy is not revealing too much right now, but he does seem excited to work with Howell.
"The kid is a dynamic football player," Bieniemy told reporters last Thursday. "He can make throws from different platforms. You can tell he has that baseball background."
Bieniemy is basing most of that on his evaluation of Howell during his college career at North Carolina. His 2022 numbers did not stand out as much as the year before (he lost most of his weapons to the draft), but he still became one of the most prolific quarterbacks in program history.
Howell's decorated time with the Tar Heels includes being ranked fifth in passing yards (10,283), fifth in total touchdowns (111) and second in passer efficiency (164.2).
Howell led the NFL preseason in passing yards, but because he was sitting behind Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke, he had to wait until Week 18, when the Commanders were eliminated from playoff contention, for his first start.
Howell wrapped up the victory by completing 11-of-19 passes for 169 yards with two total touchdowns and an interception. He got the ball out quickly, distributed the ball to five different pass-catchers and displayed an instinct for when to use his legs (he had 823 rushing yards as a senior and accounted for 11 rushing touchdowns).
"He's a heck of a player, a heck of a competitor," Bieniemy said. "Sam has some stuff to him."
Both Rivera and Bieniemy like Howell's potential, but they are not going to flat out give him the starting job. Both coaches have expressed the desire to bring in competition for Howell, whether that is soon-to-be free agent Taylor Heinicke or another veteran quarterback.
Howell is not worried about that right now, but he is excited for what Bieniemy could do for his skill set.
"I'm a big fan of his," Howell said. "And just listening to him talk here, I'm super impressed with just the man he is. He comes from a team that's had a lot of success, especially on the offensive side of the ball. I'm just super excited to learn all that stuff and just get started with him."
For Rivera, who asked all of the offensive coordinator candidates about what they thought of Howell, the pairing of Bieniemy's scheme and the young quarterback could yield positive results. In addition to how much he learned during the preseason, Rivera pointed to how quickly he got the ball to players like Jahan Dotson and Terry McLaurin during the Cowboys game.
Rivera said Howell has a "quick twitch," which should be useful in Bieniemy's West Coast-influenced system.
"Those were some of the things that you get excited about," Rivera said.
There are still some things for Washington to sort out with Howell before the 2023 season begins. First, he must get through OTAs and minicamp in June to further solidify his status as a potential starting quarterback.
Still, Rivera wants to give Howell every opportunity to make the spot his own, and hiring an offensive coordinator who is a fan of his skill set is a good place to start.