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Ron Rivera: Sam Howell is not our starter, but he is coming in as QB1

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Peter King and Myles Simmons react to the Commanders' release of QB Carson Wentz, who seemed destined for stardom in 2017 but now at age 30 seems finished as a starter in the NFL.

Commanders head coach Ron Rivera has said several times since the season ended that Sam Howell will be the team’s “QB1" entering the offseason program.

But on Tuesday, Rivera explicitly clarified that doesn’t mean Howell is going to be behind center when Washington’s season opens in September.

“He’s not our starter,” Rivera said in his Combine press conference. “He’s coming in as the QB1. He’ll get a great opportunity to be our starter. But we do want to find a veteran quarterback. We have Taylor Heinicke that’s a free agent. We’ve got to work through that as well. And we’ll see what happens from there.”

Rivera noted that there are several things the team likes about Howell, including what he displayed the year before he was drafted out of North Carolina.

“Well if you go back to his junior year coming out, this is a guy who had some very good grades on him as far as being draftable,” Rivera said. “If you go back and you ask some scouts what the grades are, you’re going to see some pretty high grades. That’s what I did. I looked at our people’s grades, and we had some very good grades on him. So, we feel very confident in his ability.

“Secondly, he showed us over a period of time — he played a lot in the preseason, that’s something we did on purpose. We wanted to see him because we like him that much. During the season, when you watched the practice tape, he just had some moments where he showed you, he’s done a really good job. And then getting the opportunity against Dallas, I thought he came out and played the type of game that you’re looking for as far as the quarterback’s concerned. He’s got a tremendous skillset, got a good arm — the kind of arm that you do look for.”

In his Week 18 start against the Cowboys, Howell completed 11-of-19 passes for 169 yards with a touchdown and interception. He also rushed for 35 yards with a TD.

While Rivera may have plenty of confidence in Howell, the young quarterback will have plenty to prove throughout the upcoming offseason program.