Sam Howell rolled to his left to avoid pressure during the Washington Commanders' first 11-on-11 period of the day. He picked up a block from Antonio Gibson against Chase Young, giving just enough time to throw a dart towards Terry McLaurin.
The veteran receiver had to reach for it, but he made the toe-tapping grab in the end zone. After the play was over, McLaurin looked in Howell's direction to say, "Good ball, boy!"
McLaurin, now entering his fifth season in the NFL, is once again working with a quarterback room that is almost completely new. Sam Howell is the only signal-caller left who played any kind of meaningful snaps for the Commanders in 2022, and while the two did work well together in the season finale against the Cowboys, most of their chemistry has been built over the past week of practices.
Howell is still learning and trying to earn the starting quarterback role for Week 1, but McLaurin is pleased with what the young quarterback has shown so far.
"It's going well," McLaurin told reporters after practice. "He's gonna give guys a chance to make the play down the field, and he throws a really nice deep ball. So, he's growing. I like how he's doing and how he's communicating with us as well."
Howell already knows that it's normally a smart move to get McLaurin the ball as often as possible. He showed that in his start against the Cowboys, when his first pass was completed by the Pro Bowl wideout, who then ran into the end zone to give Washington an early lead.
Howell hasn't targeted McLaurin more than the other receivers on the roster -- he wants to establish a working relationship with all of the Commanders' talented pass-catchers -- but there have been glimpses of what their connection could be like during the regular season.
Days before his touchdown catch on Monday, Howell launched a pass to McLaurin downfield on a play that likely would have resulted in a touchdown in a game scenario during blitz period. And on the first day of camp, McLaurin snagged a pass near the sideline from Howell with Emmanuel Forbes providing tight man coverage.
McLaurin knows it's his job to produce, no matter who is lined up at quarterback, but he has enjoyed working with Howell and getting a feel for how the quarterback plays the position.
"As we've gone over the course of this offseason, we've thrown together, we've gotten some reps out here," McLaurin said. "I think one thing that strikes me with him is we have a nuanced connection."
What McLaurin means is that he doesn't have to spend time discussing landmarks with Howell on deep passes. Howell already has a good feel for throwing the ball downfield, and with McLaurin being one of the better contested pass-catchers in the league since he joined Washington in 2019, that allows the two to play off each other's strengths.
"It's been great so far and I'm excited to work with him and hopefully he's gonna be our guy for the future," McLaurin.
Howell has looked impressive at times, but hasn't been perfect, as one should expect from a quarterback entering his second season. As the defense has slowly ramped up its physicality, the pressure has led to overthrows and three interceptions in the last two practices.
McLaurin knows those are rough patches that Howell wants to get corrected going forwards, but he does like how Howell is not rattled by mistakes.
"He doesn't hang his head," McLaurin said. "He's not yelling, cussing things like that. He said he's pretty even keel, which is really unique for a young guy like that."
McLaurin also likes that errors don't alter Howell's playing style. He's still going to push the ball downfield, and McLaurin likes that aggressiveness.
"Staying consistent in what we do...I think it starts with the quarterback and so far, he's done a really good job," McLaurin said. "I know he still has time to grow, but that comes with us rallying around him and doing our job to make his job easier."
The hope is that Washington's instability at quarterback ends with Howell as he tries to maintain his place as "QB1," giving McLaurin a quarterback he can grow with for years to come. There are still weeks to go before that decision is made, but Howell has McLaurin in his corner.
"I think Sam has done a great job of being a leader at such a young age, but he has a confidence about him that...you can't help but notice," McLaurin said.