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Nightmare Scenario: Predicting Commanders Start Sam Howell as Rookie?

Not as a slight to Howell, but nobody wants to see him on the field in his first NFL season

Washington Commanders quarterback Sam Howell likely didn't imagine he'd be waiting to hear his name called as the fifth round got started at the 2022 NFL Draft, but that's exactly what happened. 

Now, as a member of an NFL roster, nobody imagines he'll get his first NFL start in his rookie season either. But it could happen. 

CBS Sports recently published a piece predicting the first starts for many rookie quarterbacks, including Howell. 

"There is a human element to sports that cannot be ignored," CBS Sports says. "When a franchise makes the level of commitment it did to Carson Wentz despite everyone warning them of the consequences, they are going to be stubborn in his usage. Wentz is sure to undergo some adversity in Washington, much like he did previously in Indianapolis and Philadelphia. Washington will stand by the quarterback through the ups and downs. His contract will not carry any dead money beyond the upcoming season so the franchise could move on from Wentz if it goes as expected."

While they didn't exactly predict Howell's first start, CBS Sports does make a good point. 

Washington didn't bring in Carson Wentz to pull the trigger on benching him too quickly. 

To that end, the real prediction here is just how long of a leash Wentz is going to have, and to me, this has bye week written all over it. 

By the time the Commanders enter their Week 14 bye, they'll have more than enough evidence to tell them whether or not the Wentz experiment is worth continuing. 

A soft opening provided by the NFL schedule-makers gives Wentz a home opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars and a Week 2 road trip to face the Detroit Lions before getting his first revenge tour game out of the way in Week 3 when the Philadelphia Eagles make a house call to FedEx Field. 

Anything less than a 2-1 start will be viewed as a disappointing start.

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But in the nine weeks that follow that start, Wentz will lead his team against the Dallas Cowboys, Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, and he'll complete his revenge tour with visits to the Indianapolis Colts and Eagles, all before Week 13 when the Commanders visit the New York Giants for a bye split back-to-back against the NFC East rival.

If a move is made, this is when it'll happen I predict. Why? Because if Wentz doesn't work out, which is the only reason a change will be made, that's bad enough. But regardless, the team can not afford to fall below the Giants in the NFC East, no matter what. 

Even then, does Washington turn to the rookie Howell or backup Taylor Heinicke?

Some won't want to hear this, but if I had to put money on it, I'm betting on Heinicke. 

All three quarterbacks have spoken about just how complex offensive coordinator Scott Turner's playbook and scheme can be. Howell is not only learning how to be an NFL quarterback but doing it with perhaps the 'wordiest' playbook around. 

Meanwhile, Heinicke knows the playbook, has worked with it for years and went 2-0 against the Giants just last season. 

Falling below New York in the divisional standings could be a death sentence for this coaching staff. If Wentz and the Commanders prove to be a mismatch and the team is forced to look elsewhere to potentially save their jobs, I predict they'll dance with the backup they know, not the one they don't. 

So what does that mean for Howell? Best case - personally - he enters next offseason competing with another rookie and maybe Heinicke depending on how this season finishes, to be the starter in 2023. 

The best-case scenario for Washington Commanders fans is the Indianapolis Colts take the team's second-round pick in next year's NFL Draft because Carson Wentz led the burgundy and gold into the postseason, and Howell is a backup again in his sophomore season.