Will Sam Howell get any starting opportunities for the Commanders in 2022?

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - MARCH 03: Sam Howell #QB07 of the North Carolina throws during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 03, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - MARCH 03: Sam Howell #QB07 of the North Carolina throws during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 03, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) /

The Washington Commanders stole Sam Howell in the fifth round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Will we see him play in his rookie year?

The Washington Commanders certainly had an interesting draft in 2022. One pick stood out above the rest though. Getting quarterback Sam Howell out of the University of North Carolina in the fifth round was a shocker.

Howell was the projected number one overall pick at this time last year. By the time the draft rolled around, the hype had cooled off a bit. However, he was still seen as an early-second-rounder. He was also seen as potentially the most NFL-ready quarterback of the draft class.

Could we see him play in 2022?

This is a complicated question because there are a lot of factors. First off, Washington doesn’t exactly have a storied history with quarterbacks. Especially not recently. And it was far from a strength of the team going into the draft.

That being said, they did trade for Carson Wentz this offseason. Wentz isn’t an elite quarterback. In fact, many would probably call him more of a fringe starter. But he can put up good production – we’ve seen it in the past. And the Commanders traded away some picks and are taking on his hefty price tag in 2022.

With that in mind, Wentz is the starter. He’s proven himself in the past and they didn’t trade for him just to not even see what he can do. They might claim there is a “QB battle” during camp and the preseason. But Wentz will have a major head start. Also a chance they call Wentz the starter immediately to instill some confidence in him and the offense.

There’s a possibility for injury with Wentz. He’s had multiple major injuries in the past. And he’s missed games in three-of-six seasons in the NFL so far.

If Wentz gets hurt mid-game don’t expect to see Howell that week though. Throwing a rookie quarterback into his first action due to an injury mid-game just isn’t a good idea. I’m bringing this up to say, don’t be discouraged if Taylor Heinicke is the backup to Wentz.

That doesn’t mean the team sees Howell as extremely far away from starting. It just makes more sense to have Heinicke enter the game. He has NFL experience. So he might handle that type of situation better.

Throwing Howell (or any rookie QB) into the fire when he wasn’t preparing for it (yes they are “always ready” but that’s not really true, let’s not kid ourselves it’s not like he would’ve been working with the first-team) is going to lead to disaster more times than not.

If Wentz is set to miss a week or two, that’s when it gets a little interesting. For a short-term injury, the Commanders might want to still go with Heinicke. He’s shown he can keep the team contending. So the team might not want to mess with things if they aren’t going too bad.

What if Wentz is playing badly though? That’s where it gets interesting. If Wentz is struggling and especially if the team is struggling with him, Ron Rivera and company might want to shake things up. And if they’re going to make a change at QB, it’s more-than-likely not going to be for Heinicke.

Let’s say it’s Week 8 and the Commanders’ bye week (just a hypothetical because we don’t know when their bye is yet). Washington’s record is 2-5 and Wentz isn’t moving the offense at all. Unless Sam Howell is showing nothing in practice, it would make little sense to not make the move.

A lot of this depends on the play of Wentz and the rest of the team. But if things aren’t going great, Sam Howell will play in 2022. Yes, Wentz comes with a large paycheck and the knowledge that they traded away picks for him.

But the Washington Commanders are trying to win. And if that’s not happening, they’ll go to the rookie QB that somehow landed to them in the fifth round. See what he can do before the end of the year.

That way you have a little better understanding of where your QB situation is at heading into the 2023 draft. Is it a dire situation that needs repair? Maybe something to think about? Or is your new franchise QB already on the roster?