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Sam Howell has plenty of people on the Washington Commanders' staff and front office excited about what he could accomplish in his second season, and you can now add new quarterbacks coach Tavita Pritchard to that list.
Pritchard, who was officially hired by the Commanders in late February, is already impressed with the limited sample size of Howell that he has seen on film, noting that the young quarterback's skill set "jumps off the screen."
"Even as you watch his progression from college to here, there are certain things he's cleaned up mechanically that I think are really exciting that will only make him better from this point on," Pritchard said.
Howell has already been proclaimed as "QB1" by head coach Ron Rivera for at least the offseason workout program with the opportunity to be the starter for the 2023 season. He earned that with the way he performed in Washington's 26-6 win over the Dallas Cowboys in Week 18, during which he completed 11-of-19 passes for 169 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Pritchard said "it's very exciting" to work with a player like Howell, who was projected to be a Day 2 pick in 2022 after breaking numerous school records at North Carolina before falling to the fifth round. His time getting to know Howell personally has been brief so far, but he has gotten "rave reviews" about the person, teammate and competitor Howell has proven himself to be over the course of a year with the Commanders.
Pritchard has already seen that Howell can put together a winning performance. While there were some clear rookie growing pains in Week 18, there was also evidence of growth from sitting and learning behind Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke. Now, Pritchard wants to help Howell play with confidence and be decisive while getting more experience.
"You see all the arm talent in the world," Pritchard said of Howell. "You have a guy who...is extremely competitive as he's described in the building, but you see it on film, too. The way he runs with the football, the way that he plays…I think those are things that you can really build on."
Howell will be introduced to his third offensive system in as many years once he gets back to work with the rest of the team during OTAs. He was in a variation of the Air Raid offense at North Carolina, and last year, he worked in a version of the Air Coryell system with the Commanders. In his second season, assistant head coach/offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy is bringing a West Coast offense, one that helped the Kansas City Chiefs reach tremendous success, with him to his new team.
That is a lot of information to digest in a short amount of time for any quarterback, but Pritchard is of the mindset that having as much football data as possible is ultimately good.
"He's gonna be able to draw on that experience, whether it's conscious or not," Pritchard said. "Obviously, we've gotta streamline a lot of that so that it's most useful for this current system. That's our job as coaches. That's our job as quarterbacks, is to eliminate clutter."
Despite the potential Howell could have, he still needs to earn the job beyond the offseason and training camp. The Commanders have also signed Jacoby Brissett, who is coming off one of his better seasons, to push Howell between now and Week 1. Pritchard views the room as having "two bonafide" quarterbacks, and that is "a huge deal" for him.
Still, there are enough aspects of Howell's game that give Pritchard confidence in his future.
"I think what's exciting about that is not just the promise that Sam has shown here, but also what he did in college, even going back to high school," Pritchard said. "Sam's a very accomplished, productive quarterback and player and knows how to win and knows how to help his team score points."