Sep 24, 2023; Landover, Maryland, USA; Washington Commanders quarterback Sam Howell (14) and quarterback Jacoby Brissett (12) on the field before the game against the Buffalo Bills at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Commanders, Ron Rivera waiting another day to name starting QB

Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera plans to identify a starting quarterback for Week 18 on Wednesday.

With the franchise in the grips of a seven-game losing streak, Rivera grasps this decision for Washington (4-12) in the season finale against the Dallas Cowboys could also be his last game as Commanders head coach.

“Well, I’d like to think we’re in a better place,” Rivera said Tuesday when asked if the franchise is better off than when he was hired Jan. 2, 2020. “Probably a fairer way to say it. I most certainly do appreciate my time here, and we’ll see what happens. And again, we’ll focus on what’s coming first on Sunday, and that’s getting ready for Dallas.”

Jacoby Brissett was named starter for Week 17 against the San Francisco 49ers, but Sam Howell got the call on gameday because Brissett aggravated a hamstring injury and was inactive.

The Cowboys (11-5) beat the Commanders 45-10 on Thanksgiving Day and can claim the NFC East division title by sweeping Washington.

Howell made his first career start against the Cowboys in Week 18 last season and led the Commanders to a 26-6 win.

Howell has 20 touchdowns, a league-worst 19 interceptions and has been sacked a league-high 61 times this season.

Brissett has three touchdowns and no interceptions, completing 18 of his 23 pass attempts this season.

–Field Level Media

Dec 24, 2023; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; Washington Commanders quarterback Jacoby Brissett (12) throws the ball during the second half against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Commanders add QB Jacoby Brissett (hamstring) to injury report

Washington Commanders quarterback Jacoby Brissett is questionable for Sunday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers due to a hamstring injury.

Brissett reported tightness in his hamstring after practice on Thursday, one day after the team announced that he was replacing Sam Howell as the starter.

Brissett received treatment on Thursday and Friday, when he was added to the injury report. Howell will return to the QB1 role if Brissett can’t go on Sunday.

Brissett replaced Howell in each of the last two games, road losses to the Los Angeles Rams and New York Jets, that extended Washington’s losing streak to six games.

“It’s a good opportunity for Sam to take a break,” head coach Ron Rivera said. “Jacoby’s proven that he’s a very, very viable player in this league.”

Including the 2022 season finale, Howell has started 16 consecutive games for the Commanders. The 2022 fifth-round pick ranks 11th in the NFL this season in passing yards (3,624) but has offset his 19 touchdown passes with a league-high 17 interceptions — including four pick-sixes. He has also been sacked a league-high 60 times.

The Commanders (4-11) finish the season with home games against the 49ers (11-4) on Sunday and the Dallas Cowboys (10-5) on Jan. 7.

Brissett, who started 11 games last season for Cleveland, has completed 18 of 23 passes for 224 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in three games this season.

–Field Level Media

Oct 29, 2023; Landover, Maryland, USA; Washington Commanders quarterback Jacoby Brissett (12) on the field against the Philadelphia Eagles at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Commanders to start QB Jacoby Brissett vs. 49ers

Quarterback Jacoby Brissett will start for the Washington Commanders on Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.

Head coach Ron Rivera made the announcement before practice on Wednesday.

Brissett replaced Sam Howell in each of the last two games, road losses to the Los Angeles Rams and New York Jets, that extended Washington’s losing streak to six games.

“It’s a good opportunity for Sam to take a break,” Rivera said. “Jacoby’s proven that he’s a very, very viable player in this league.”

Including the 2022 season finale, Howell has started 16 consecutive games for the Commanders. The 2022 fifth-round pick ranks 11th in the NFL this season in passing yards (3,624) but has offset his 19 touchdown passes with a league-high 17 interceptions — including four pick-sixes. He has also been sacked a league-high 60 times.

The Commanders (4-11) finish what could be Rivera’s final season in charge with home games against the 49ers (11-4) on Sunday and the Dallas Cowboys (10-5) on Jan. 7.

Brissett, who started 11 games last season for Cleveland, has completed 18 of 23 passes for 224 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in three games this season.

He compiled an 18-30 record as a starter for the Browns (2022), Miami Dolphins (2021), Indianapolis Colts (2017-20) and New England Patriots (2016). He has thrown for 10,574 yards with 51 TDs and 23 interceptions.

Brissett, 31, will become the 13th different quarterback to start for Washington since the beginning of the 2018 season. He follows Howell, Taylor Heinicke, Carson Wentz, Alex Smith, Dwayne Haskins, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kyle Allen, Garrett Gilbert, Case Keenum, Colt McCoy, Josh Johnson and Mark Sanchez.

–Field Level Media

Nov 5, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA;  Washington Commanders quarterback Sam Howell (14) throws the ball during the second half against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Commanders plan on-the-fly defensive fixes with Giants up next

How the Commanders’ defense went from No. 3 in yards allowed in the 2022 to the fourth-worst entering Week 11 remains one of the questions Washington is actively working to answer with seven games to play in 2023.

Identifying reasons for the freefall isn’t easy. The unit, guided by the same coordinator, Jack Del Rio, was bolstered by first- and second-round selections in the 2023 draft and has remained relatively injury free.

But here sits Washington (4-6), a loser of six of its last eight games and all fingers pointing at its defense, heading into a date Sunday at home with the New York Giants (2-8).

“I’ve been disappointed. It’s unfortunate, but it’s happened,” Rivera said of allowing big plays and big points.

New York has lost seven of its last eight with the lone win coming at home over Washington, 14-7, on Oct. 22. Despite that defeat, the Commanders are a double-digit favorite for the first time since 2017.

The margin says more about the state of the Giants than the Commanders. They are down to their third quarterback, Tommy DeVito, and injuries have eliminated several other starters.

But if there is a defense DeVito can riddle, it might be Washington’s. In a 29-26 loss Sunday at Seattle, the Seahawks scored on their final three possessions to eke out the win.

Geno Smith carved up the Commanders for 31 completions in 47 attempts for a career-high 369 yards and two touchdowns.

“We’ve got to be better on first- and second-down situations,” Washington coach Ron Rivera said. “We’re playing a number of different guys now, especially after last week and there’s some cohesion that has to come.”

Rivera was speaking about deadline day deals that sent starting defensive ends Montez Sweat and Chase Young to the Bears and 49ers, respectively, in return for draft picks. Those moves elevated backups to starters.

“The mindset of the team more than anything else is the opportunity that’s in front of us — focusing, preparing and doing the things we need to do to prepare ourselves to win,” Rivera said.

The struggles of the defense have left the Commanders wondering what might have been. Sam Howell, who leads the NFL in passing yards (2,783), may finally be the answer at quarterback.

But some of his best performances have come in losses in which the defense collapsed. The Commanders twice put up 31 points against the Eagles and dropped both games.

“I feel good about the direction our offense has grown. The guys are playing faster. They are playing with more confidence. They have a better grasp for what we’re doing,” Rivera said.

When Washington fell to New York four weeks ago, the Giants sacked Howell six times, exposing his primary flaw. Howell has been sacked 47 times, putting him on track to break David Carr’s single season record of 76.

DeVito has risen to the starting job after the loss of Daniel Jones (torn ACL) and Tyrod Taylor (rib injury), who passed for 279 yards and two touchdowns when the Giants beat the Commanders four weeks ago.

New York has struggled with DeVito at the controls. In a 49-17 loss at Dallas last week, DeVito completed 14 of 27 passes for 86 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. The two touchdowns came in the second half and the first was after the Cowboys were already up 28-0. Playing behind a patchwork offensive line, DeVito has been sacked 11 times the last two weeks.

“You make no excuses about it,” Giants coach Brian Daboll said. “We are at where we are at and that’s where we’re meant to be right now, relative to what we’ve done.”

Commanders who missed practice on Wednesday include cornerback Benjamin St-Juste (illness) and running back Antonio Gibson (toe). WR Curtis Samuel was limited.

Giants starters missing practice include cornerback Adoree Jackson (concussion), offensive tackle Evan Neal (ankle) and linebackers Bobby Okereke (hip) and Kayvon Thibodeaux (concussion). Limited participants were offensive tackle Andrew Thomas (knee), cornerback Deonte Banks (ankle), safeties Xavier McKinney (rib) and Jason Pinnock (thumb/ankle), RB Saquon Barkley (ankle) and DeVito (left shoulder).

–Field Level Media

May 6, 2022; Ashburn, Virginia, USA; Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera (R) talks with Commanders quarterback Sam Howell (14) during Washington Commanders rookie minicamp at Inova Performance Center In Ashburn, VA. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Commanders deny downshift despite DE deals

Washington made waves at the trade deadline on Tuesday by dealing away the Commanders’ two most productive pass rushers this season, former first-round picks Chase Young and Montez Sweat.

Young, the No. 2 pick in the 2000 NFL Draft, was shipped to the San Francisco 49ers for a late third-round pick and Sweat netted Washington a second-round pick in return.

“I’ve gone through this before,” Commanders coach Ron Rivera said. “Do we have that opportunity? I think this is what this is. It’s the same kind of opportunity.”

Rivera said the moves are part of a “paradigm shift” under new ownership. Josh Harris is bringing in elements of analytics and evaluating the merit of a deal like sending Young, in the final year of his contract, to the 49ers for a top-100 pick becomes a black-and-white decision. It also means the Commanders turn to fourth-year defensive ends Casey Toohill and James Smith-Williams to start Sunday for Washington (3-5).

“It ain’t like we’re dropping. They’re some good players,” defensive tackle Daron Payne said.

The Commanders might not be ready to look forward, but the future was weighed in both trades. They set Washington up with five picks in the top 100 of the 2024 draft, and the Commanders could have as much as $88 million in salary cap space.

With growing support for quarterback Sam Howell, who makes just over $1 million per season through 2025, the Commanders are in the same maximum flexibility position the 49ers are with $700,000 quarterback Brock Purdy.

“It gives us a chance to spread (money) around and keep some of the guys that we want to keep … go after some of the guys we want to go after [in free agency) and draft who we want to draft,” Rivera said. “That’s pretty good for us going forward.”

–Field Level Media

Jihad Ward of the Giants attempts to sack Sam Howell of the Commanders in the first half. The NY Giants host the Washington Commanders at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ on October 22, 2023.

Commanders’ Ron Rivera sticking with QB Sam Howell

Sink or swim, Commanders head coach Ron Rivera maintained his support of starting quarterback Sam Howell despite a 3-4 record and Washington’s seven-point output in a loss to the New York Giants.

“Well, I will tell you this, I’m committed to him and we’ll see how things go,” Rivera said on Monday. “But I can’t predict the future and the only thing I’m going to do is, I’m going to focus in on one game at a time. Because the truth of the matter is, that’s the only thing that matters right now, and that’s getting ready for Philadelphia. Once I get done with this conversation with all you guys, it’ll be on to Philadelphia.”

A fifth-round pick in 2022, Howell is 4-4 in his NFL career and Rivera chose him to start over Jacoby Brissett following a training camp competition based largely on upside.

The Commanders are on record-breaking pace to give up 97 sacks this season with a pressure-allowed percentage of 38.6 percent of dropbacks.

David Carr was sacked 76 times in 16 games as a rookie in 2002.

Howell has been sacked 40 times in seven games this season and was taken down five times in the first half of Sunday’s loss to the Giants. He has nine touchdowns and seven interceptions in 2023, but Rivera and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy remain believers.

Rivera said the criticism of Howell isn’t entirely unfair, but made clear the Commanders see more “growth and development” than cause for alarm.

“As long as we have that young quarterback, he’s growing and developing, and we as a team play consistent complementary football, we have a chance,” Rivera said. “We just have to be accountable for what’s happened right now. Step up, develop, grow, and recognize our mistakes and correct those things. And that’s on me. It starts with me and I get that. Believe me, I’ve been doing this for a long time. And I’ll continue to do it as best as I can.”

The Commanders play the Philadelphia Eagles (6-1) at home this week. The Eagles beat Washington, 34-31, on Oct. 1 and sacked Howell five times.

–Field Level Media

Aug 26, 2023; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) looks on against the Baltimore Ravens during the second quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

First NFL QB benched? Baker Mayfield early favorite

Baker Mayfield clearly hasn’t silenced all of his doubters.

After renewing his potential with the Los Angeles Rams in five games to close the 2022 season – his third team of the year – Mayfield signed a one-year deal with Tampa Bay this offseason and beat out Kyle Trask for the Buccaneers’ starting quarterback job.

However, it was one of the more hotly-contested quarterback battles of the preseason, and Mayfield isn’t promised the job a day longer than the Sept. 10 season opener at Minnesota. Following that, Tampa Bay returns home for two games – first against Chicago and then against reigning NFC champion Philadelphia.

That’s why Mayfield was installed by as the +200 “favorite” to be the first NFL quarterback to lose his starting job this season. He’s ahead of Washington’s first-year starter Sam Howell (+400) and Tennessee veteran Ryan Tannehill (+600).

The book opened the prop market offering odds on 31 NFL teams. The lone exception was the Arizona Cardinals, whose quarterback situation was further muddled by Monday’s release of veteran Colt McCoy.

Josh Dobbs, who was acquired by Arizona from Cleveland last week, and is familiar with coordinator Drew Petzing’s scheme from their time together with the Browns, is now the leading candidate among a group that also includes rookie Clayton Tune along with journeymen David Blough and Jeff Driskell.

Baker Mayfield (+200)
Sam Howell (+400)
Ryan Tannehill (+600)
C.J. Stroud (+700)
Mac Jones (+700)
Desmond Ridder (+900)
Anthony Richardson (+1000)
Bryce Young (+1200)
Jimmy Garoppolo (+1400)
Jordan Love (+1400)
Matthew Stafford (+1600)
Brock Purdy (+2000)
Jared Goff (+2000)
Derek Carr (+4000)
Geno Smith (+4000)
Justin Fields (+4000)
Kenny Pickett (+4000)
Kirk Cousins (+4000)
Daniel Jones (+5000)
Deshaun Watson (+5000)
Russell Wilson (+5000)
Dak Prescott (+10000)
Joe Burrow (+10000)
Tua Tagovailoa (+20000)
Justin Herbert (+25000)
Trevor Lawrence (+25000)
Aaron Rodgers (+50000)
Jalen Hurts (+50000)
Josh Allen (+50000)
Lamar Jackson (+50000)
Patrick Mahomes (+100000)

The book clearly believes the three rookie starters entering Week 1 will be given a longer leash than veterans who may stumble out of the gate.

C.J. Stroud, who was named the Houston Texans’ starter on Monday, has +700 odds to be the first quarterback benched this season. Indianapolis rookie Anthony Richardson has +1000 odds, followed by Carolina’s Bryce Young at +1200.

Along with Mayfield and Tannehill, there are several situations that bear watching among incumbent quarterbacks.

Mac Jones returns as New England’s starter, but second-year quarterback Bailey Zappe is waiting in the wings should Jones stumble out of the gate. And coach Bill Belichick proved last year that he’s not shy about making a switch if he feels the need.

Somewhat surprising odds belong to Denver’s Russell Wilson at +5000 – making the embattled Broncos quarterback the 11th longest shot to be the first benched this season. Wilson is entering what is likely a make-or-break season under new coach Sean Payton.

Then again, his only real competition is Jarrett Stidham, who has entered the journeyman realm as he joins his third team in as many years and has thrown only 131 total passes through his first three NFL seasons.

The longest odds understandably belong to two-time Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes, who enters the season with +100000 odds to be the first NFL quarterback sent to the bench by his coach this season.

–Field Level Media

Jul 28, 2023; Ashburn, VA, USA; Washington Commanders quarterback Sam Howell (14) passes the ball on day three of Commanders training camp at OrthoVirginia Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Commanders QB Sam Howell to start preseason opener vs. Browns

Second-year pro Sam Howell has been named the Washington Commanders’ starting quarterback for Friday’s road game against the Cleveland Browns.

The team formally made the declaration on Wednesday, two days after releasing a depth chart displaying Howell as the first-team quarterback and veteran Jacoby Brissett listed as No. 2.

Howell also has taken the bulk of the No. 1 repetitions during training camp and has impressed new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy.

“Sam’s actually doing a hell of a job,” Bieniemy said earlier this week. “I’ve seen the growth. You can see when he’s confident, he’s … releasing that ball. It’s a thing of beauty.”

Howell was a fifth-round pick in the 2022 draft out of North Carolina.

His lone appearance last season was in the season finale against the Dallas Cowboys when he completed 11 of 19 passes for 169 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He also rushed for a touchdown.

Deshaun Watson said Wednesday that he will start at quarterback for the Browns.

“Just kind of getting myself back into a routine to get ready for the season,” Watson told reporters.

–Field Level Media

Feb 8, 2023; Phoenix, AZ, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell (right) and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith interact at press conference at Phoenix Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

NFLPA elects Lloyd Howell as executive director

Lloyd Howell was elected NFLPA executive director on Wednesday, replacing DeMaurice Smith as the head of the league’s players association.

Howell spent more than 34 years at Booz Allen Hamilton, including most recently as chief financial officer. Smith was the third executive director of the NFLPA and had been in the role since 2009.

“We are excited to have Lloyd lead our union into its next chapter and succeed DeMaurice Smith, who has ably led our organization for the past decade plus and has our gratitude and thanks,” NFLPA president JC Tretter said. “It was important for us to run a process that lived up to the prestige of the position we sought to fill. The process was 100% player led and focused on leadership competency, skills and experience. Our union deserves strong leadership and a smooth transition, and we are confident Lloyd will make impactful advances on behalf of our membership.”

The Board of Player Representatives conducted the vote after what Tretter said was a “months-long search.”

“I want to congratulate Lloyd Howell on his election as Executive Director of the NFL Players Association and to thank DeMaurice Smith for his continued partnership and unstinting work on behalf of NFL players,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said. “We look forward to working with Lloyd and his team to continue growing the game and making it better, safer, and more accessible and attractive to fans around the world.”

Howell has an electrical engineering bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School.

Howell’s official start date will be established in the coming days, the NFLPA said.

“The opportunity to represent the players is a privilege,” Howell said. “I look forward to building relationships and the solidarity amongst our players. The history and strength of this institution is impressive, and I look forward to driving our bold goals and achieving them together in the future.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 23, 2022; Landover, Maryland, USA; Washington Commanders quarterback Sam Howell (14) on the field before the game against the Green Bay Packers at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: QB Carson Wentz to sit, Commanders want look at rook Sam Howell

Rookie fifth-round pick Sam Howell appears set for an audition as the Washington Commanders continue to shuffle the deck at quarterback.

Multiple reports Wednesday indicate Carson Wentz, who started last week after Taylor Heinicke played in nine games while Wentz recovered from a broken bone in his hand, will be inactive for Week 18 when the Commanders welcome the Dallas Cowboys.

Heinicke and Howell are expected to share QB duties, per reports.

Howell last played in the preseason finale, taking every snap against the Baltimore Ravens, and has drawn high praise from head coach Ron Rivera.

“Well, he has a bright future in this league,” Rivera said in August. “He has a lot of growing to do. I know [offensive coordinator Scott Turner and quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese] will go through this with a fine-tooth comb and emphasize the things that he could’ve done better.”

Washington quarterbacks have combined for 23 touchdowns, 15 interceptions and have been sacked 45 times in 2022.

Wentz threw three interceptions and completed 16 of 28 passes for 143 yards in a loss to the Browns last week. Rivera picked Wentz for the start after weighing whether to stick with Heinicke, who had only one turnover and a combined passer rating of 105 in his previous three games.

The Commanders traded for Wentz after Heinicke led the team in passing in 2021 with 3,419 yards, 20 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.

Given the run of stopgap solutions, another spin on the QB carousel appears imminent for the Commanders, unless Howell proves a draft steal and nails down the job.

Alex Smith led Washington in passing yards and attempts in 2020. It was Case Keenum in 2019, Smith in 2018 and Kirk Cousins (2017, 2016).

–Field Level Media