• Wed. Nov 30th, 2022

Commanders Camp: Sam Howell’s Realization, Jamin Davis’ Workload, Accumulating Wounds

ByDebra J. Aguilar

Aug 5, 2022

ASHBURN, Va. – Sam Howell’s arm strength is worthy of the NFL. The latest edition of Madden NFL ranked the Washington Commanders rookie arm power eighth among all quarterbacks, tied with Aaron Rodgers. Days into his first pro training camp, Howell realizes he’ll need all that punch to get through this.

“I think the main difference (from college) is how good DBs are,” said the three-year-old North Carolina starter. Athleticism. “Our D-line is really good, but the (defensive backs), just the way they can break balls… it’s shocking. They close the windows very quickly.

There is no rush for Howell to speed up his passing and mental process accordingly. The fifth-round pick is third on Washington’s QB depth chart behind Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke. Howell is still learning the playbook, his offensive teammates and the skill level of ball-peddling cornerbacks and safeties.

Thanks to this right arm, he has the basics to be an intriguing prospect. So far, that’s good enough.

“It’s just a matter of learning as he goes through (camp),” coach Ron Rivera said. “Understanding our pattern, our progressions in terms of current routes and how to switch between receivers.”

Although Howell entered the 2021 college football season announced as a future high draft pick – and Wentz did not impress in camp – there are no expectations for the rookie to enter a meaningful regular season game. this season. Still, the foundations for a role in the NFL exist. That’s why everyone involved takes a patient approach.

Beyond the right-hand man who set UNC records for career passing yards (10,283) and touchdown passes (92), Howell has a player vibe reminiscent of Heinicke. Like Washington’s main starter last season, the 6-foot Howell lacks ideal size. Both find ways to create in the air and on the ground. Howell, partly out of necessity while playing in a limited offense, rushed for 828 yards and 11 touchdowns in his final season with the Tar Heels.

Even though Howell’s eyes widen momentarily at the sight of cornerbacks and ball-hawking safeties, his demeanor is that of a player whose pulse doesn’t quicken as adversity lurks.

“Howell needs to clean up his footwork and develop as a pocket passer,” AthleticismDraft insider Dane Brugler wrote ahead of the draft, “but he has NFL-grade arm strength, athleticism and work ethic and works with a slow heart rate.”

This balanced vibe will appeal to players who don’t want to see signs of panic in their quarterback’s eyes. Howell’s manner will also help him through the ups and downs of camp. Then there is his new reality. After starting for three years in college, Howell enters the pro rank at third in the depth chart.

“It’s a little different from what I’m used to,” Howell said. “I know the kind of situation I find myself in here. All I can do is control what I can control and try to improve myself every day.

Developing at this point for Howell means “trying to maximize every rep I have out there”. He mentally sweats watching Wentz and Heinicke.

“I try to get a mental representation on every play we run in practice,” Howell said on Friday.

A new experience arrives Saturday for Howell and all the recruits: their first job at FedExField. Washington is moving its morning practices to the team’s facility in Northern Virginia for an overnight session at its home stadium.

“It will be super cool to see our stadium,” Howell said.

Saturday, he will participate in the field. During regular season Sundays, Howell is ready to be watched on the sidelines. It’s fine for now. Often facing the third team defense, he sometimes looked strong in the pocket, green in others. Camp practices and preseason games will be Howell’s time to improve and flash — and find ways to deliver passes before the receiving windows close.

More news and notes from Friday

• Two recent trends at camp intersected when Rivera announced the sudden retirement of linebacker Tre Walker. The undrafted free agent joined Antonio Gandy-Golden among the players to retire from this camp. Walker is also the second linebacker removed from the depth chart. Drew White suffered a season-ending ACL tear this week. That leaves the team with just seven linebackers on the 90-man roster.

As for whether Washington will (finally!) be looking for more linebackers, Rivera said, “That will obviously make us look at it.”

• Wide receiver Curtis Samuel (hamstring, lower back pain) did not participate in practice after working with the first team offense on Wednesday and during Thursday’s light practice. These are three of Samuel’s last four full workouts with side-court coaches.

Fellow wide Dyami Brown joined Samuel and tight end John Bates (calf), offensive lineman Saahdiq Charles and defensive backs Troy Apke and DeJuan Neal. Guard Trai Turner (quad) and defensive end James Smith-Williams (hip) remained unavailable, and William Jackson III (hamstring) missed part of practice.

• Tight end Logan Thomas (knee surgery) is weeks away from his return, and Bates last trained on July 29. Cole Turner joined the injury report on Saturday. The 6-foot-6 rookie kept moving on a pass as Heinicke rolled to the left. Turner caught the middle but took a hit from safety Percy Butler, among others, while spinning up. The rookie left the field and walked straight into the coach’s tent.

Rivera later said that Turner felt a hamstring strain – and that Sammis Reyes also had a hamstring problem. That means Washington could be without its first four projected tight ends for Saturday’s practice.

• There was no clear daily winner between attack and defence, apart from a late training goal-line streak.

The first team attack took possession in the shadow of the end zone at the 2-yard line. Defensive end Casey Toohill chased running back Antonio Gibson into the backfield on first down. Linebacker Jamin Davis helped stone a second down in the middle before covering tight end Armani Rogers in the end zone, forcing Wentz toss the ball on third down.

Gibson lost the ball twice Friday on transfers from Wentz. It was unclear whether the problems came from trades or simple RB drops after a season in which he had six fumbles, a league high among non-QBs. The second error came on the fourth down, with Toohill recovering the stray ball.

The second-team offense with Heinicke didn’t fare much better over its entire run of games. Cam Sims took a fade pass to the right corner of the end zone, but cornerback Christian Holmes pushed the receiver out of bounds before Sims’ feet hit the ground. Running back Jonathan Williams hit the ball 1 on fourth down.

• Davis remains the other starting linebacker alongside Cole Holcomb in Washington’s standard roster. However, David Mayo’s workload with the first team has accelerated in recent training. The three played together on Friday in a brief streak with a 4-3 baseline look, but Davis’ progression after a disappointing rookie season is of the most interest.

Rivera said this week he was happy with Davis at camp, saying, “He’s a lot more comfortable with what we’re doing.”

As for the rise of Mayo’s first-team snaps — meaning less for Davis — the veteran is part of Washington’s ‘big group’, and it’s a look coaches have used more this week with five defensive linemen.

• Butler, an aggressive safety with speed, also snuffed out a run from JD McKissic in practice. The competition between Butler and Darrick Forrest is heating up and should be a rock’em, sock’em showcase during the preseason.

(Photo: Geoff Burke/USA Today)