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Commanders QB Discussion: Pros and Cons for the Two Healthy Players on the Roster

NFL: Washington Commanders Training Camp Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Much ado has been made about who should Ron Rivera and staff play at quarterback while Carson Wentz is sidelined with a broken finger. This is a multi-layered discussion that really takes peeling back some layers of the onion to fully get a pulse on this conundrum.

Taylor Heinicke

Pros: None (I kid, I kid... relax hive).

1.) For starters, Taylor knows this offense, so he can come in here and execute at least 23 of it.

2.) Heinicke is much more elusive than his predecessor. He has great escapeability, and isn’t afraid to use his legs to make things happen when pressured. Because if this ability to improvise, teams may be more apt to have a linebacker back as a spy in case he does take off, leaving a void somewhere underneath. in the zone. We’ve seen how poorly this offensive line is, so having a mobile guy may actually be a good thing.

3.) Teammates rally around him. It’s true, he just seems to have that knack to motivate those around him and inject a bit of excitement into the veins of the team. He has “moxie”.


1.) I mentioned above how Heinicke knows this offense, however, it’s limited with him under center with the plays Scott Turner can call. He doesn’t have the arm to press the ball downfield (a staple of this system), so about 13 of the playbook will have to be eliminated - including deep shots off play-action and the over routes that are a great combo of posts and fades.

2.) Taylor refuses to step up into a pocket. We’ve seen this over the past two years. Instead, he likes to backpedal or vacate the pocket to his right (he doesn’t throw well on the move to his left), and because of this, his mechanics (which are not good to begin with), tend to suffer. This is why we often see him float balls or throw high - because his base is rarely set, not allowing him to transfer weight from back to front leg.

3.) Unlike Wentz, at just 5’ 10”-5’ 11”, Heinicke doesn’t have the height to see over the line. When he does sit in the pocket, there is a much greater chance that the d-lineman can get their hands up if the pass rush is negated (which hasn’t been much this year) and bat his passes down.

4.) His propensity for turnovers is very high. Last year, Taylor was second in the NFL in turnover-worthy plays (a proprietary stat PFF charts each game) and was last in the NFL in big-time throws. His 15 interceptions in 2021 for tied for second most in the league. He had the third worst IQR in the NFL among quarterbacks with at least 11 games started ahead of just Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson.

Sam Howell


1.) Sam has a legit NFL arm. It’s not quite up there with Allen and Mahomes, but it’s not too far off. His deep ball tends to be much flatter that the high-arching deep ball we see from Wentz, but he can get it there with ease. His most impressive arm trait is the intermediate passes. They have a lot of zip and get to his receivers in a hurry and on a line.

2.) Howell is a sneaky-good runner who is tough as nails. Last year at North Carolina, his line was a sieve and he lacked playmakers on the outside (so he should fit in well with Washington). No problem...Sam just took it upon himself, rushing for 828 yards and 11 touchdowns.

3.) Sam was one of the top-rated high school quarterbacks in the country and a consensus 5-star recruit. He started as a true freshman for Mac Brown, and never relinquished the role. That year, he completed 61 percent of his passes for 3641 yards and 38 touchdowns versus just seven interceptions.

4.) Howell has an incredibly quick, compact release and can change arm angles to make all the required throws.

5.) His mechanics are VERY good. You’ll see some “draft guys” try and refute this last year because of the intense pressure he was under, but true evaluators will look at his first two years at UNC to see the true Sam Howell - a guy with a sturdy base, the ability to transfer weight easily, a quick, compact release and great arm-slot.


1.) Although thickly built at 220 pounds, Howell is just under 6’1”. The lack of prototypical height could affect him in a collapsing pocket (which is sure to happen).

2.) Scott Turner’s offense is not the easiest to learn. If Sam is given the opportunity to run it as a rookie, I’d expect a lot of growing pains as he learns to go through advanced progressions and high-low reads.

3.) Like any rookie, Howell will need time adjusting to the speed of the game. I REALLY worry about him having to process quickly behind this BAD offensive line. I keep going back to the days of Joey Harrington when he was drafted by the Lions, and how that pass rush that he had to face ruined the Oregon star. I’d hate to see the same happen here.


We already know what we have in Taylor Heinicke. He can get you a few victories against weaker competition, however he just doesn’t have the talent to consistently win in the NFL with his below-average arm and poor decision making. If Ron and staff think we still have an outside shot at a wild card, Taylor is probably the correct choice to fill in until Wentz returns - however most sane fans realize this team is nowhere near competing, and we’d simply be flushing away a potential top 10 pick by winning two to three more football games.

Howell remains an enigma. Heading into the 2021 college football season, there were talks of him ascending to the top overall spot in the NFL Draft. A down statistical year in Chappel Hill caused his draft stock to tumble, ultimately landing him in the fifth round, however it wasn’t because of his talent. That UNC team had one of the worst offensive lines in P5 college football, and Howell had a whole new set of offensive playmakers to work with. The result wasn’t pretty, but you got to see a new side of Sam Howell - the runner with grit and determination.

Most fans are of the belief that this will be Tugboat’s last year in DC - especially if Snyder is forced to sell the team and new ownership takes over. It would be nice to see what Sam Howell has this year so there is some film of him for a new GM and head coach to evaluate before making a long-term decision on the future at quarterback. The entire NFL already knows what Taylor Heinicke is, which is a solid backup who can come in in a pinch and keep a team’s head above water for a short period of time. However, as I mentioned above, is it worth it to risk the development of a young rookie behind this poor offensive line with poor coaching all round him?


Who would you like to see start for the Commanders - assuming playoffs at this point are out of the question?

This poll is closed

  • 67%
    Sam Howell
    (1595 votes)
  • 32%
    Taylor Heinicke
    (783 votes)
2378 votes total Vote Now


If either Heinicke or Howell were to play well while Wentz is out, is the job still Carson’s when he returns?

This poll is closed

  • 11%
    (247 votes)
  • 63%
    (1409 votes)
  • 25%
    Depends on the standings at that point
    (570 votes)
2226 votes total Vote Now