Howell, a fifth-round pick by the Commanders in April, will get his first bit of NFL action since starting the preseason finale against the Baltimore Ravens and leading the league with 547 passing yards during the three-game span. Howell served as the primary backup when Taylor Heinicke was the starting quarterback.
Heinicke will serve as the primary backup.
"I spoke to some of the coaches, talked to some of the team leaders and talked with some others about it, and we feel that this is an opportunity to give Sam a chance to show up what he's capable of," Rivera said. "I think the opportunity is gonna be a good one for him to go out and play football and just kinda show us."
Howell came into the NFL with three straight 3,000-yard seasons with 92 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. He holds a long list of school records for the Tar Heels, including career passing yards (10,283), passing efficiency (164.2) and total yards of offense (11,292).
"He has a live arm. He really does," Rivera said. "He took command pretty early on right from the beginning. Stepped in the huddle, and it was really crisp. Broke the huddle real well."
Howell said during his press conference with the media that he is excited for his first bit of regular season action as a starter.
"I've been working hard all year, and I was just waiting for an opportunity to go out there. I kind of assumed that what the circumstances are, I might have the ability to go out there and play this weekend. I'm excited for it."
Howell has soaked in as much information as possible while working behind Heinicke and Carson Wentz this season, and he felt that his progress had come a long way at about the middle of the season. He feels that he has come a long way in terms of dissecting NFL defenses and understanding the Commanders' offense. With the Commanders having one of the better defenses in the league with a pass-rush that harasses quarterbacks, all that experience will be of use.
"I have a lot of really good players around me," Howell said. "Our running game is playing really good as well, so I feel good about the opportunity."
Howell will have three quality pass-catchers in Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel and Jahan Dotson. He has some experience with Dotson, as the two played together during rookie minicamp, but this is the first time he will get to work with McLaurin or Samuel.
Howell knows what kind of impact they can bring, and he is looking forward to getting them the ball.
"Terry's fast, man. He can fly around the field," Howell said. "He's been so much fun to watch. And Curtis, he's a special player. There's not many people in this league that can do what Curtis does. I just gotta do the best I can to get Curtis the ball in space and let him do what he does."