One of the starkest shifts in the Washington Commanders’ offense this preseason is how often the quarterback throws a quick pass: Sam Howell barks for the snap, takes a step or three and gets rid of the ball about as rapidly as he got it. Sometimes new coordinator Eric Bieniemy schemes up a quick pass; other times Howell does it on his own. He recognizes a mismatch or a blitz or a soft spot in coverage and counters by delivering a dart.
And Howell occasionally still has not been fast enough. In practice, in the Commanders’ preseason opener at the Cleveland Browns and in joint workouts with the Baltimore Ravens, Howell sometimes has been a beat or two slow while visibly thinking, and that lag of just a fraction of a second has led to negative plays.
This year, quick passing figures to be critical to Washington’s offense. “Quick game,” as it’s often called, is a loose concept that describes plays in which everything moves fast — the linemen’s sets, the quarterback’s feet and the ball. The quarterback often speeds things up by splitting the field and focusing on the side with the better matchup or more space. Some analysts define quick game as throws that come in 2½ seconds or less, but several Washington players, including reserve quarterback Jake Fromm, said that figure seemed too slow.
“Quick game is awesome,” Howell said. “ … It makes my job easy, getting the ball out of my hands fast, and we have some really good weapons on the outside. … [It’s] one of my favorite parts of the offense.”
One of the most intriguing things about Sam Howell is his ability to improvise. This is a player who isn’t afraid to try things against the grain, which is down to his natural skill set and ever-increasing confidence after finally getting the keys to the Washington Commanders’ kingdom from head coach Ron Rivera.
If certain things don’t come off, Howell just goes on to the next play. It’s a mindset very few around the league possess and only heightens the sense of anticipation about what the player could bring to football’s most pivotal position in 2023 and beyond.
Whether it’s the deep shots, making things happen on the move, or even sidearm throws, Howell’s creativity is what the Commanders are counting upon to get them out of irrelevancy and into legitimate playoff contention.
Eric Bieniemy is coming from an organization that boasts a quarterback capable of conjuring up magic out of nothing. While asking Howell to be anything like Patrick Mahomes during his first season as a starter, the play-caller would be wise to allow the same level of freedom to flourish.
Howell is thoroughly deserving of the QB1 tag. But the hard work starts now and relying on the exciting elements of his game that got him here in the first place is absolutely essential.
DC Sports King
Kickoffs may have been the deciding point, according to ESPN’s John Keim. That’s not a surprising assessment. Badgley only had 24 kickoffs since entering the NFL in 2018. Usually, teams have had the punters do the duties instead of Badgley.
However, Washington’s punter Tress Way doesn’t kick off much. Way has 24 kickoffs since 2014, with 18 coming in his first year. Slye handled the duties last season for the Commanders with 60 touchbacks in 77 kickoffs.
Joey Slye enters his third season as the Commanders’ kicker. He must remain consistent on extra points and land the 40 and 50-yard field goal attempts more accurately.
How will the Commanders fare on Monday Night Football at FedEx Field?
Commanders break the Ravens’ preseason streak
The Washington Commanders have an opportunity to end a prolific unbeaten preseason run on Monday Night Football. John Harbaugh’s men are currently 24 games without tasting defeat during warmups, which is an NFL record and a testament to their strength in depth over a prolonged period.
While the Baltimore Ravens deserve credit for this record, it’s pretty meaningless all things considered. Something that was highlighted by offensive lineman Sam Cosmi, who didn’t give the distinction much weight in the grand scheme of things.
Washington can also take great heart from their two joint practices against the Ravens. They matched the physical side of things and didn’t back down an inch, which is another sign of the change in attitude across the locker room under a coaching staff that is demanding nothing but excellence with jobs on the line.
If the Commanders could beat the Ravens on Monday, it would mean more than your average warmup triumph. Especially considering how much Baltimore has been bragging about having such a lengthy unbeaten record.
Podcasts & videos
In video form: another area Terry McLaurin excels. RBs and the pass game. Plus: an interview with Jeremy Reaves. Why he’s so comfy now; helping Quan Martin. More. @ESPNRichmond https://t.co/sXkKxQx8NM— John Keim (@john_keim) August 19, 2023
Grant believes Sam Howell can succeed...but hopefully, the offensive line doesn't blow what could be his one chance at success. https://t.co/1XT9TMQdxl— 106.7 The Fan (@1067theFan) August 19, 2023
NFC East links
New York’s biggest offseason addition is as intelligent as he is athletic—and potentially has some extra motivation.
There’s a good deal of optimism that they got the better end of the Darren Waller trade—he was available in large part because of recent injury, and the fact that he turns 31 three days after the regular-season opener—and that’s not just because of the freakish athletic traits that made him special a few years back. The guy the Giants got is also winning because of his smarts, his savvy in being able to get separation and maybe a little extra motivation from being dumped by the Raiders. The other thing that should help is the experience coach Brian Daboll (Rob Gronkowski) and OC Mike Kafka (Travis Kelce) have deploying unique weapons at the position. Waller’s addition, tied together with those of Parris Campbell and Jalin Hyatt, has the New York coaches feeling like the offense is considerably faster than it was a year ago.
Big Blue View
Comparing his play to the other great NFL tight ends
The threat that Darren Waller poses with his size, speed, and route running ability, when combined with the speed that the Giants now have at wide receiver and the ability of their other tight ends to catch passes, has the potential to make their 2023 offense seem like one big game of whack-a-mole to opposing defenses when placed into the hands of mad scientists Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka. If the offensive line can hold up so that Jones can target all three levels of the field, things could get very interesting.
Bleeding Green Nation
Another change for the Eagles’ linebacker group with three weeks left until Week 1 kickoff.
When the LB signed with the Eagles, he said that he was pretty close to moving on and finding a new trade after being unsigned this offseason, but then the Eagles called. Jack talked about his personal growth through the ups and downs of his career — going from a top-paid player to being cut twice. And now, 11 days later, the veteran is officially calling it a career.
Just nine days ago, a majority of Eagles fans thought Jack seemed primed to be a starter in Week 1. But, since then, his practice and preseason performances had some wondering if he’d make the roster at all.
The linebacker position in Philly has felt unintentional for awhile now, but this season it has been a roller coaster — injuries, veteran signings, and now a retirement.
Blogging the Boys
Takeaways from the second preseason game of the year.
The Deuce Vaughn show was a little lackluster outside of the first run
Everyone in Cowboys Nation is greatly enjoying the Deuce Vaughn experience with the Dallas Cowboys. Everything about what he is and represents is so much fun.
That being said, Saturday night was a little bit misleading in retrospect. Vaughn started off strong with his first touch going 14 yards all the way into the endzone, but that was all for the most part.
Following his score, Vaughn’s runs went for -3, -1, zero and finally 4 yards to bring him to 14 on the night. This is by no means any cause for concern as Vaughn is showing the type of quickness and shiftiness that we know will translate well into the NFL, not to mention the backup offensive line was a bit worrisome to say the least; just some context is all.
Linebacker depth is suddenly a concern again
DeMarvion Overshown’s injury situation is of the season-ending variety, suddenly causing depth issues at linebacker.
Blogging the Boys
The Cowboys lost a promising young linebacker for the season when DeMarvion Overshown tore his ACL. They may need to add help.
The Cowboys could decide to take a look at a familiar face in free agent Anthony Barr. Barr played 14 games for the Cowboys in 2022, starting 10 of them. He had 58 tackles, two tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries, and registered a sack.
At the age of 31, Barr is far from his prime and was not the most consistent when it came to coverage last season for the Cowboys. While he was impactful against the run, Barr had his struggles when it came to his coverage.
The former 22nd overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft could provide good depth at the linebacker position for the Cowboys. Rashaan Evans was drafted by the Tennessee Titans, playing with them for four years before spending last season with the Atlanta Falcons. He produced a career best year with the Falcons, starting 17 games and accumulating 159 total tackles, two fumble recoveries, two sacks, and six tackles for loss.
Evans is only 27 years old, and could be a productive option for the Cowboys in 2023 if they decided to add him to the team.
NFL league links
Pro Football Focus
Mitchell Tinsley: 76.3
The undrafted rookie out of Penn State got his first taste of the NFL last Saturday against the Browns. He played just 14 snaps, but he managed to haul in a catch for 26 yards. Tinsley got some work from the slot and out wide. However, it will be hard to make the roster with a deep receiving room that features Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, Curtis Samuel, Dax Milne, Dyami Brown and Byron Pringle.
More about Saturday night’s Patriots-Packers preseason game being suspended after New England’s rookie CB Isaiah Bolden was placed on a stretcher and carted off the field in the fourth quarter, via @MikeReiss: https://t.co/VAtZ3Ge1RK— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 20, 2023
UPDATE: Jimmy Graham experienced a medical episode that doctors believe may have been a seizure. Graham has rejoined the team https://t.co/J951VhGc2B— NFLTradeRumors.co (@nfltrade_rumors) August 19, 2023