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Washington Commanders’ Preseason Shines Waves of Optimism

With new improvements and preseason victory, the Washington Commanders anticipate a successful 2023 season.

Washington’s home stadium, FedEx Field, celebrates after scoring a touchdown. (Jayden Armant/The Hilltop)

With their most recent victory, the Washington Commanders capped off a sweep over their 2023 preseason opponents.

The Commanders joined the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Jacksonville Jaguars as the only undefeated teams this preseason. From their two-point conversion stands against the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns to snapping the Baltimore Ravens’ 24-game preseason win streak, Washington established some optimism for the new season. Their close victories provided some nail-biting tension, but there is still much to like about the performances.

Their quarterbacks featured former Buffalo Bills fifth-round pick, Jake Fromm, and veteran, Jacoby Brissett. But the real headliner this season is Sam Howell, the Commanders’ 2022 draft pick. Washington’s playoff aspirations have been held back by mediocre quarterback play. Years of disappointment at the position left fans envious of upgrades. Among those demanding change is Howard University senior Jordan Barrett, emphasizing the solid receiving corps needing a consistent signal caller.

“I think it’s important that Sam Howell comes out and plays well this year,” Barrett said. “You have Terry McLaurin, who’s had multiple 1,000-yard receiving seasons, but he’s had a different quarterback every season. It’s been a revolving door at that position. So bringing him and a young receiver like Jahan Dotson some stability is important.”

Howell’s two games displayed some of what fans were looking for, featuring 265 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He completed nearly 76 percent of his passes with a passer rating of 122.0. Howell’s sample size is small, so fans will have to wait for the regular season to see his true potential.

If Howell can be serviceable, he could potentially aid Washington’s No. 20 overall offense in 2022. The Commanders boasted the third overall defense, with a rushing attack falling just outside the top 10. These factors will help Howell as a sophomore quarterback, alleviating the pressure to perform at such a high level. Also assisting Howell is former Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator, Eric Bieniemy, who is predicted to elevate Washington’s offense.

Coach Ron Rivera expressed his glee with Howell’s improvement. In an Aug. 31 press conference, Rivera highlighted development in Howell’s footwork, accuracy, and decision-making.

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“I’m really pleased with his overall growth and development,” Rivera said. “His command of the offense has come along really nicely.”

But Commanders fans still have to wait until Sept. 10 to see if their product is legitimate. For now, fans like Barrett say the preseason results are “encouraging.” Even Philadelphia Eagles fan and Howard public relations major Alex Caldwell acknowledges the Commanders’ foreseeable improvement. Still, he doesn’t believe they will be a threat in the grand scheme of things.

“They’ll definitely be a competitive squad that plays until there are three zeros on the scoreboard,” Caldwell said. “They’ve got a new sheriff in town named Eric Bieniemy, so I expect to see improvement from an offensive standpoint. However, they’re simply not the better team in the majority of the games they’ll be playing in this year.”

Regardless, football in Washington is underway soon, with a new owner, offensive coordinator, and signal caller.

Copy edited by Whitney Meritus

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