Sacks and other hits are taking their toll on Commanders QB Sam Howell late in the season

Washington Commanders quarterback Sam Howell (14) works during the first half of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023, in Atlanta. The Washington Commanders won 24-16. (AP Photo/Danny Karnik)(AP/Danny Karnik)

Sam Howell has been sacked more than any other quarterback in the NFL this season. It remains to be seen if he’ll be back on the field for the Washington Commanders this weekend to endure more punishment.

Howell has been pulled from each of the past two games, yet he remains a candidate to start at home in Washington’s next game Sunday against the NFC-leading San Francisco 49ers. Coach Ron Rivera expects to announce a starter Wednesday between Howell and journeyman Jacoby Brissett.

Part of the equation is that Howell has been sacked 60 times and hit plenty more times through 15 games, the past six all losses as the Commanders have fallen to 4-11.

“He’s taken a lot of snaps,” Rivera said on a video call with reporters Tuesday. “The length of the season obviously is probably wearing on him, as well as the number of plays he’s had and the number of hits he’s had to absorb.”

Howell’s 557 attempts are second most in the league. The second-year pro has the most interceptions with 17, including two in the most recent loss, 30-28 at the New York Jets when Howell was yanked after going 6 of 22.

“I didn’t play my best ball,” Howell said Sunday. “I have to be better. I think it starts with me, and I need to be better and make better decisions.”


Brissett, a 31-year-old who signed a $10 million contract for this season to back up and mentor Howell and provide some light training camp competition, completed 18 of 23 passes for 224 yards and three touchdowns in his past two relief appearances.

Even if he’s not with Washington beyond this season, Brissett continues to show teams he can handle stepping in on a moment’s notice and make throws.

“That’s a vet,” running back Antonio Gibson said. “He’s comfortable out there, so when he gets in, it’s just another day for him.”


Just about everything else? The problems extend to the defense, which allowed the Jets’ 32nd-ranked offense to put up 381 yards.

It’s not going to get any easier with the 49ers’ high-powered offense coming to town fresh off their home loss to Baltimore.


Rookie CB Emmanuel Forbes showed some improvement at New York after being benched off and on this season.

“He had a couple mistakes still, some things that he can get ironed out,” Rivera said of the first-round pick. “But he did play fast, a little more confident.”


Howell looks much less like Washington’s QB of the future than he did earlier this season, but Rivera — who may not be around to decide that — insisted his opinion of the 2022 fifth-round pick has not been totally soured.

“He’s got a very good body of work,” Rivera said. “Things have gone relatively well early in the season and into the middle, but it’s been tough the last couple of weeks. The last few weeks, they’ve been tough on him.”


Rookie RB Chris Rodriguez Jr. injured his right ankle in the Jets game and was sporting a walking boot afterward. Rivera said Rodriguez and CB Benjamin St-Juste (concussion) were getting further evaluation Tuesday.

With Brian Robinson Jr. dealing with a hamstring injury that kept him out the past two weeks and Jonathan Williams in concussion protocol, Washington brought Jaret Patterson back on the practice squad.

“He’s very familiar with what we do, and that’s the biggest thing,” Rivera said of Patterson, who made the team as an undrafted free agent in 2021.

The offensive line is also noticeably banged up. Starting right tackle Andrew Wylie hyperextended an elbow on Sunday, when the Commanders were already without starting left tackle Charles Leno (calf) and center Tyler Larsen (knee).


1.7 — Howell’s QB rating against the Jets, by far his lowest in 16 NFL starts.


After Rivera announces a starter, hope the offensive line can keep him upright against an angry opponent that’s a 13 1/2-point favorite on FanDuel Sportsbook. Former Washington pass rusher Chase Young should be especially motivated against his old team.



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