Last Sunday's blowout loss to the Buffalo Bills was the first real speed bump Sam Howell has faced in his young career.
During his weekly press conference on Wednesday, Howell was transparent and took responsibility for his four-interception performance. He made poor decisions and held the ball longer than he should have. If the Commanders are going to come away from Lincoln Financial Field with a win over a talented Philadelphia Eagles squad, what he showed at home against the Bills is not going to be enough.
He's determined not to let that performance define him.
"I think the player I was on Sunday is not who I truly am as a player," Howell said.
For the first three starts of his career, Howell looked as good as one could hope for a quarterback who was still developing. He was still holding onto the ball, but he was directing the offense well, dissecting defenses and using his legs to buy time. He also showed growth from Week 1 to Week 2, taking better care of the ball and electing to take an incompletion rather than force a throw that required pinpoint accuracy.
On Sunday, however, the growing pains were there and played a role in hindering the offense that did move the ball well in spurts. He held onto the ball too long at times, and his decision making led to him making ill-advised throws into coverage.
The rough spots in Howell's game are expected, because the team knows that he is still growing and learning how to be an NFL quarterback. As understandable as it may be, Howell is not using that as an excuse.
"I can't go out there and make the excuse that I'm young because the teams we're playing, they don't care," Howell said. "The scoreboard doesn't care. So, I got to do my job at a higher level in order for this team to go where we want to go."
Howell has been ready to bounce back.
"Ever since the game ended on Sunday, I was excited for the next game just because I'm ready for another opportunity," Howell said. "I'm ready to go out there and play like myself again."
The Commanders will need Howell to play closer to the way he did to start the season when they travel to Philadelphia. The Eagles have a disruptive defensive front that is stacked with talent like rookie Jalen Carter, who has the best grade from Pro Football Focus among all interior defenders.
The last time the Commanders played the Eagles on the road, they pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the 2022 season by handing the Eagles their first loss of the season. Howell knows that last year's game "isn't going to do anything for us this year," but perhaps he can lead them to another upset win.
"We've got to have a really good week of practice and we'll have a good plan and it's just a matter of going in there and executing."
-- We'll start off the biggest injury news of the week for the Commanders. Logan Thomas was back at practice in full pads as a limited participant. The team will monitor him throughout the week, but Thomas said in the locker room that he is ready to roll.
-- Even if Thomas is not available for Sunday, Howell said the team has plenty of confidence in the other tight ends on the roster.
"I think Cole [Turner] has done a good job of kind of stepping in and filling that void of being a good pass catcher. When \[John\] Bates has been thrown the ball, he's done a good job with it as well. Obviously, everyone knows what he's capable of doing in the running game and pass protection, but we love all our tight ends."
-- The Eagles possess one of the better offensive line groups in the NFL, and coach Ron Rivera said that they're "a big, massive group." Part of that is because of center Jason Kelce, who Rivera called "one of the really, really good ones."
"When you have an anchor like that, naturally, a lot of good things will happen."
-- The Commanders know they missed some opportunities against the Bills, but they aren't letting that dampen their spirits on the practice field. Rivera felt that Wednesday's practice had "a lot of energy," which he views as a positive development.
"You have to be able to bounce back and get yourself refocused," Rivera said. "This is a very good football team we're playing. It really is. We're going into a very tough environment as well. So, we've got to rally around one another and make sure we understand what it takes."
-- Rivera also commented on Jalen Hurts' growth as a player in recent years.
"I think when you go back and you look at the 2021 season and you see the things that Jalen did and how he started to develop, they adapted their offensive scheme to fit him. I thought that was a brilliant move by [Eagles Head] Coach Nick [Sirianni]. I think it really kind of highlighted his abilities and then the confidence in which he came back last season and played that was even more impressive. This year, you see the same steady guy, and I think they have an even more talented group of runners."