The Washington Commanders quarterback situation needed an upgrade after patching together the most important position in football last season with Ryan Fitzpatrick, Taylor Heinicke, Kyle Allen, and Garrett Gilbert. This season, Ron Rivera traded for Carson Wentz and drafted North Carolina QB Sam Howell in the fifth round.

Carson Wentz will start the season under center for the Commanders, but all NFL fans know exactly what Wentz is. He is an OK starting QB with a ton of physical traits but a penchant for making soul-crushing bad decisions with the ball at the absolute worst times.

Sam Howell is an unknown commodity at the NFL level, but after a successful college career and an intriguing preseason record, it seems like the rookie might get his regular season NFL debut sooner rather than later.

Commanders quarterback situation

The Washington Commanders played the Carolina Panthers, Kansas City Chiefs, and Baltimore Ravens in the 2022 NFL preseason.

Head coach Ron Rivera gave rookie Commanders quarterback Sam Howell the lion’s share of the work in the exhibition games. Howell threw 69 passes, Taylor Heinicke threw 21, and Carson Wentz had 22 pass attempts. And the former Tar Heel had the final preseason game all to himself.

In these games, Howell performed well. The soon-to-be-22-year-old (on September 16) went 9-of-16 for 145 yards vs. the Panthers, 10-of-18 for 122 yards with an interception vs. the Chiefs, and 24-of-35 for 280 yards and a touchdown vs. the Ravens.

For those of you keeping score at home, that’s 547 yards, which is the most of any quarterback in the league this preseason.

Now, obviously, leading the NFL preseason in yards means nothing when it comes to regular season success. In fact, when you look at the QBs right behind Howell — Trace McSorley (536 yards), Anthony Brown (464), Bailey Zappe (462), Kyle Trask (457) — you’ll see leading in this category almost guarantees backup status.

That said, the Commanders quarterback situation is a little different than the Cardinals, Ravens, Patriots, and Buccaneers (respectively) listed above.

Ron Rivera and the Commanders are set up to win in the next few seasons. The team has a loaded defense, led by 23-year-old Chase Young, a veteran O-line, and exciting young weapons like Terry McLaurin (26), Antonio Gibson (24), and Jahan Dotson (22).

Is Carson Wentz a winning NFL quarterback who can take advantage of these talented pieces? Recent history says no.

Last year with the Indianapolis Colts — another talented team with playoff aspirations — Wentz put up respectable numbers. He was 322-of-516 (62.4%) for 3,563 yards, 27 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. However, he also took 32 sacks and lost eight fumbles.

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Plus, in the final game of the season, a win-and-in (seeming) cakewalk against the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars, Wentz put up a stinker. He went 17-of-29 for just 185 yards with one touchdown, one interception, six sacks, and a lost fumble.

Putting up lofty preseason numbers doesn’t make you a starting NFL quarterback. But when you look at the numbers Sam Howell put up in his debut games, combine that with the eye test against NFL competition, and mix in a little college history and physical traits, fans can get a good feeling about his potential as a future Commanders QB.

The issue Ron Rivera is going to face is that we all know Wentz will have some bad games this season. It’s just what he does. When he does, the fans and media will bang their drums loudly calling for Howell to get a chance.

Can Rivera hold off the posse and give Wentz a full year to try and make it to the playoffs? Or will Howell’s early success make his coach more likely to give him a shot when Wentz falters?

We’ll start to get some answers in Week 1 when the Commanders take on the team that made Carson Wentz look foolish in his final game as a Colt, the Jaguars.