March 30, 2023

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Rookie QB Sam Howell leads against the Cowboys at last

ASHBURN, Va. – The Washington leaders have reversed course and will start the bullish middle Sam Howell Coach Ron Rivera said Wednesday in Sunday’s regular season finale against the Dallas Cowboys.

As of late Wednesday morning, the leaders were leaning hard towards the start Taylor Hynek And Howell played in relief, according to multiple sources. Carson Wentz will be inactive.

Predictions about which QB would start for Washington shifted from Heinicke to Howell late in the morning, sources told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, with Heinicke endorsing the coaches that Howell deserved the opportunity.

Washington wants to see more of Howell, the only player on the active roster signed for the 2023 season. Rivera said that after speaking with other coaches and team captains he chose to go with Howell.

“The most important thing is we’re really interested in seeing what Sam can do in this league,” Rivera said. “It will be a good opportunity for him to come out and play and show us. We’re not going to judge everything based on Sam on one game. We’ll get a chance to see how he prepares.”

Rivera said Howell told him, “I’m ready to trade” when he informed the rookie of the decision.

The Leaders (7-8-1) were eliminated from last week’s playoff game. Dallas (12-4) can still win the NFC East with a win and a loss against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Howell became the 33rd starting quarterback for Washington since they last won the Super Bowl after the 1991 season. He’s the eighth different starting quarterback in head coach Ron Rivera’s three seasons, highlighting a key reason the Chiefs would once again finish with an unsuccessful season.

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Wentz will be inactive in what will surely be his last game with Washington. He has two years left on his contract, but no guaranteed money. However, he has a $4 million injury guarantee, which is another reason he wasn’t active on Sunday. As it is, leaders can cut it without any money counting towards their salary cap.

Washington traded third-round picks with Indianapolis and traded second-round picks with the Colts last spring to acquire Wentz. The leaders also absorbed $28 million.

Wentz threw a combined seven touchdown passes in Washington’s first two games but then struggled, with only four touchdowns in his next five starts. The Leaders scored a total of 55 points in the first two games but only 57 points in the next five.

Washington also wants to see Howell, a fifth-round pick last spring who has yet to play. He was Henicke’s back-up for seven games before Wentz returned from his injury. Howell threw for 10,283 yards, 92 touchdowns and 23 interceptions in three seasons as a starter at North Carolina State.

Rivera said they saw progress from Howell when he was the primary backup and he could get more work as the team’s scout captain.

“Two men I spoke to today said they feel he’s ready for this opportunity,” Rivera said. “That was a big part of the reason as well, how people felt based on what we saw over that extended period.”

Heinicke will back up Howell.

Henicke started nine games after Wentz broke his right thumb on October 13. Washington went 5-3-1 in those games. In the past two seasons, Washington has gone 12-11-1 when Henke started and 2-7 under everyone else.

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But Washington turned to Wentz last week because the offense hadn’t scored more than 20 points in seven of the previous eight games. Most of that was due to red zone struggles as the leaders ranked 13th in total yards during that stretch.

Washington, knowing the defense it faces on Sunday, has thought deeply about creating Hynecke, Rivera said. The Cowboys are tenth in yards allowed, third in sacks and tied for sixth in interceptions. Starting Heinicke would have given Howell a chance to see how Dallas was attacking. It could also be Henke’s last start with Washington. He is a free agent after the season.