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Practice notes | Sam Howell focused on team success, not individual stats

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Sam Howell is sitting at the top of the NFL in several categories, from passing yards to completions, and is among the best in touchdowns and completion rate.

He's probably the only one who isn't putting much stock into it.

Ahead of the Washington Commanders' Wednesday practice, Howell said during his weekly press conference that his recent surge in production "doesn't really mean much to me." Instead, he's focused on the much larger goal of helping his offense be productive and his team win as many games as possible.

"I look more into what we're doing as a team and just how I can improve for this football team and how I can put this football team in better chances to win football games," Howell said.

As a whole, Howell's development has been more of an up-and-down path as opposed to a straight one. This was particularly true at the beginning of the season. Moments that showed his potential, such as his second half against the Denver Broncos, were immediately followed by headaches, the most recent being a lackluster afternoon against the New York Giants in Week 7.

Lately, however, Howell's development has gone in only one direction: up.

Since that first matchup with the Giants, in which the offense generated just seven points and one third-down conversion, Howell has looked better than most signal-callers in the league. He's thrown for at least 300 yards in the last three games (the last quarterback to do that was Kirk Cousins in 2016) and thrown seven touchdowns to just three interceptions. He's looked more comfortable in the pocket, and he appears to have an improved grasp of the offense.

As Sam Cosmi said after the Commanders' loss to the Seattle Seahawks, "He's balling, man."

"He's showing some crazy stuff. He's really developed. You can see from the beginning of the year to now, I mean, it's just like, wow. The thing that's really cool to see, he's like taking the coaching and he's putting it out there."

As the Commanders get ready for their rematch with the Giants, Howell is first in yards (2,783) and completion (264) as well as tied for fifth in passing touchdowns (17). According to the Commanders' public relations department, Howell is the only quarterback in NFL history to have thrown for over 2,900 passing yards, rush for over 200 yards and have a 65% completion rate within their first 11 career games.

As a result, the national media is starting to pick up his performances. Howell isn't paying attention to that, either.

"It really doesn't change anything for me," Howell said. "I haven't really noticed if it is out there, but I just try to do everything I can to stay focused on this team and stay focused on each and every game that we play and just taking it one day at a time."

Howell is more concerned about the Commanders getting wins, which he said haven't come as often as he would like. To drive that point home further, the Commanders are 1-3 when Howell has thrown for 300 yards or more. That's not to say that the Commanders are better when Howell underperforms (they aren't), but it does show that Howell's individual stats don't guarantee a win.

Howell would rather get a win over racking up stats.

"We just got to try to take it one week at a time and...I think we've played alright the past few weeks, [but it] doesn't mean we're going to play alright this week," Howell said. "So, we got to take it one week at a time, one day at a time, and make sure we approach it the right way to give ourselves a chance to try to play well on Sunday and give us a chance to win."

And with the Commanders at 4-6, there isn't much room to gloat.

"I want to go out there every single weekend, play well and give our team a chance to win," Howell said. "Obviously, we haven't won enough games. We haven't won the games that I feel like we should have won this season. So that's a little bit disappointing, but I really don't look too much into what I'm doing on a personal level."

The Commanders are still mathematically in the playoff hunt, but to Howell's point, they need to start winning games to keep it that way. After their matchup with the Giants, who have been forced to start Tommy DeVito at quarterback, they face a gauntlet of the league's best teams like the 49ers, Cowboys and Dolphins.

And if Washington does win those games, Howell's stats will take care of themselves. 

"We're going to take it one week at a time and we feel good about our chances against every single one of these teams that we play," Howell said. "So, it's just a matter of us doing the right things throughout the week to give ourselves a chance on Sunday and then going out there on Sunday and executing. We have a lot of football left, so that's what we're focused on."

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