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Examining some opportunities that are in front of Washington this Sunday

The Commanders have several storylines heading into their matchup against the Cardinals; what are they, and will they be able to take advantage of the opportunities that Arizona provides them?

Cincinnati Bengals v Washington Commanders Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

The Sam Howell era formally begins this Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals. For however long the Howell era lasts, this will have been one of the more anticipated debuts in recent team memory because very few “rookie” quarterbacks have this opportunity in Washington. “It’s a dream come true,” Howell said in his latest presser about leading the team in a sellout game. Howell is going up against a Cardinals defense going through a philosophical change in addition to general turnover under new head coach Jonathan Gannon, and the opportunity to start the season fast is there for the taking.

In addition to the Howell era beginning Sunday, his offensive coordinator, Eric Bieniemy, also makes his official debut. Insight into Howell and Bieniemy’s relationship has surfaced in recent weeks. “He wants me to run the show. He says it all the time. He wants me to have the keys to the car,” Howell said about what Bieniemy wants out of him.

Bieniemy sees a lot of positives in Sam, describing him as “a good-hearted kid who has a tremendous amount of talent who has a quiet, calm, confident demeanor.” However, for Bieniemy and the circumstances that brought him to Washington, the evaluation of his debut will be larger than Sam Howell. Bieniemy is taking over an offense with untapped potential at wide receiver, tight end, and running back. So, how does Bieniemy bring the best out of this offense? Furthermore, how do Bieniemy’s scheme and play designs help keep the Commanders on the field and convert drives into touchdowns at a higher rate?

Another question that might be answered Sunday, but most certainly after a couple of months, will be about the production of Washington’s reconstructed offensive line. Time will tell if Bieniemy can effectively utilize protection schemes or pass concepts that buy Howell time to find his receivers or quickly get the ball out of his hands. Time might also tell if Ron Rivera was too passive in the off-season addressing the position. But if the answer proves that Bieniemy can work with this line, especially in week one, where the Cardinals do not possess a dominant pass-rush threat, the offense could be in for a big opening day.

From a defensive standpoint, there has been some uncertainty on the defensive line, with Chase Young and Jonathan Allen dealing with injuries. Additionally, rotational interior lineman Efe Obada is out for this week and on short-term injured reserve. However, this defensive line has no excuses not to be the backbone of the defense. On the latest Trap or Dive episode, Alex Clancy, host of the Locked on Cardinals Podcast, stated that his biggest concern heading into this matchup began with Washington’s defensive line. Will Washington’s line take advantage of starting rookie right tackle Paris Johnson?

The Cardinals are reportedly starting Josh Dobbs, who has not seen much action in his five years as a pro. However, the offense still has several playmakers: running back James Conner, tight end Zach Ertz, and receivers Hollywood Brown and Rondale Moore. There was a time when Washington struggled to eliminate the explosive play last season, so Jack Del Rio has a challenge ahead of him as well, despite the Cardinals starting a relatively inexperienced quarterback in Dobbs.

What questions do you want answered coming out of the Cardinals game? What additional opportunities exist for the team or players that are important to note? Let us know in the comments.

Catch the latest Trap or Dive Podcast episode, where AJ, Dre, and I make Commanders season predictions and preview the Cardinals-Commanders week one matchup with Alex Clancy.

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