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Minicamp notebook | Sam Howell has skill set that 'excites' Commanders

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Thursday's practice marked the end of mandatory minicamp, and by now, the Washington Commanders have gotten a decent body of work from Sam Howell as the incumbent starting quarterback. 

The results were about what one would expect from a second-year signal-caller. There are some areas that Howell will need to smooth out during training camp, but there have also been moments that show why the Commanders are confident about giving him every opportunity to earn the starting job for the season. 

As the offseason workout program begins to wind down, coach Ron Rivera and the team remain comfortable with how things have gone at the position. Howell will remain the "QB1" for now with Jacoby Brissett filling in as the backup. 

"We know he's young. He's a second-year player who got an opportunity to start last year, but there is a lot of room for growth," Rivera said. "We know that, but he's got a good skill set."

Howell has shown more good than bad in his reps leading the starting offense. Many of his positive traits, such as his decision making, quick twitch and arm talent, shined throughout the offseason. He's established a strong connection with Washington's tight ends, and he isn't afraid of giving players chances to make plays. That was the case on the first snap of 7-on-7 drills, when he aired out a shot to Terry McLaurin in the end zone.

But, as a younger player, Howell still has more to learn. Rivera touched on that following Thursday's practice, saying that he would still like to see Howell continue to improve his footwork.

"That's probably one of the things you always want these young guys to understand how important it is, especially coming from one program to another," Rivera said. "You've gotta understand that it's a little bit different. The speed is a little bit different, so we've gotta make sure those things are corrected."

The good news is that Howell's hasn't done anything to make Washington question its decision to give him a shot as "QB1." Rivera liked a lot of the decisions he made on the field, and he appreciates the extra work Howell has put in so far.

"He is still learning to make those decisions, but he's also got the arm talent and that's the thing that that excites us."

Here are some other observations from today's practice:

-- It was an up-and-down day for Howell, particularly during 7-on-7 drills. He threw back-to-back interceptions in the second set of plays for the starters. The first came from Percy Butler, who jumped a route ran by Marcus Kemp, and the second was picked off by Troy Apke on a pass intended for Jahan Dotson.

Howell also had some exceptional throws to make up for his gaffes. He followed up his interceptions with two touchdowns: one to Logan Thomas and another to Dotson.

-- Emmanuel Forbes was one of the clear defensive standouts in 7-on-7 and team drills. He stuck with Dyami Brown and Dotson on passes from Howell to the end zone, and he knocked both away with ease. Rivera mentioned that Forbes has been as advertised this offseason, and the cornerback continues to prove that he is a plug-and-play type of player.

-- Despite being a seventh-round pick, Dax Milne has managed to stick around because of his route running and reliable hands. He's managed to pull down some impressive catches over the past few weeks, and he had two more during Thursday's practice. He managed to create some separation against Benjamin St-Juste for a catch on a comeback route, and he caught a touchdown over Danny Johnson during team drills.

-- Chris Rodriguez continues to show improvement. While working with the second offensive group, he secured a catch on a pass from Brissett and dove across the goal line for the score. On the next play, Jaret Patterson scored a touchdown himself with an over-the-shoulder catch.

-- Finally, the throw and catch of the day came near the end of practice from Jake Fromm and Mitchell Tinsley. Fromm placed the ball exactly where Tinsley needed it to be, and the wideout kept both feet in bounds and made the catch over a defender for the score.

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