Future Washington starter or not, Sam Howell shows he belongs in the NFL

Future starter or not, Sam Howell shows he belongs in the NFL originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Sam Howell belongs in the NFL.

That’s not to say Washington’s rookie quarterback, who made his debut versus the Cowboys on Sunday, is destined for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In fact, it’s still a total mystery as to whether the signal-caller’s notable 26-6 victory over Dallas will truly put him in the running to be the club’s starter when the 2023 campaign begins in September.

Instead of stressing about the big-picture future, however, just know this: The fifth-round choice out of the University of North Carolina displayed his intriguing tools at FedEx Field and got better as the Week 18 matchup progressed. That was the best-case scenario for a guy who hadn’t taken a meaningful snap for the Commanders before Week 18.

The fun got going early, too.

After the Cowboys’ punter dropped the snap ahead of his first kick of the meeting — a gaffe that set the home offense up at the 16-yard line — Howell put one on a sprinting Terry McLaurin, who took it the rest of the way for a touchdown. The only issue on that sequence? McLaurin’s decision to toss the ball to the crowd instead of keeping it for Howell’s sake.

The flow of the clash, which Dallas performed horribly in from the opening whistle, slowed considerably from there.

For a stretch, it appeared as if Howell’s connection to McLaurin would represent his most impressive moment of his maiden professional action, as the unit failed to find a rhythm and the rushing attack landed in a feature role. There was also Howell’s first NFL interception, the result of an unfortunate read deep in opposing territory.

In the second half, though, Howell and his supporters regained momentum. Serious momentum, actually.

The Day 3 selection was a proficient runner in college and he leaned on his legs to make his first solo visit to the end zone near the conclusion of the third quarter with a physical nine-yard scamper.

On the ensuing possession, also in the third’s waning seconds — Dak Prescott was completely disinterested in doing anything productive in the pocket — Howell uncorked this gorgeous deep shot to McLaurin:

Howell’s overall numbers were rather meager: 11-of-19 for 169 yards, one touchdown and one turnover to go along with 35 rushing yards. Yet in this instance, his highlights were far more crucial than his statistical output.

Once the excitement over Howell’s effort fades and the franchise’s direction at large again becomes the focus, the need for a more established quarterback should dominate any and all offseason discussion. As promising as he was, assuming Sunday’s showing will be the norm for him would be foolish.

Nonetheless, at the very least, the organization ought to believe that Howell can develop into something. Whether that something is the thing feels like a supremely unlikely outcome — but it doesn’t feel impossible thanks to his premiere.

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner, NBC Sports Washington. Sign up for NBC Sports Washington’s free email subscription today.

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