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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Tim Weaver

Behind Enemy Lines: Scouting the Commanders ahead of Week 10 game

This week the Seahawks are hosting the Commanders in what could be a critical game for playoff positioning. Seattle faces a brutal slate of games starting in a couple of weeks and can’t afford any more slip-ups.

To learn more about the enemy, we spoke with Commanders Wire managing editor Bryan Manning. Here are a few questions he answered about how his team is doing so far this season.

On paper Sam Howell looks pretty solid. How would you evaluate his season so far?

Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Howell has been up and down at times, as expected. But the encouraging part about him is that he’s improving. Some of the mistakes that plagued him earlier this season, he’s clearing up. He will still make a throw or two per game that will make you scratch your head, but that’s the life of a young QB. Howell has everything you want in a franchise passer — except prototypical size and draft pedigree. Seattle understands that after 10 seasons of Russell Wilson. If you can play, you can play. Howell can play.

Should Howell be considered the franchise QB?

Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s start by saying he should be the QB for 2024. Washington acquired extra draft picks in the trades of Montez Sweat and Chase Young, giving them some flexibility to move up. There will be a new regime. New owner Josh Harris will bring in his own GM and coach, and it’s up to them to determine Howell’s future. But, he’s already earned the 2024 job. Personally, I think he can be the guy. These final nine games are important because he can make Washington an even more attractive job. The Commanders should use the offseason to build around Howell on the offensive line, give him a young tight end and an explosive back to pair with Brian Robinson Jr.

What grade would you give Ron Rivera this year?

Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

D-. And, for me, this is about four years of Rivera. The personnel failures are too many to name. The dead cap hits on players no longer here are stunning. Bad free-agent signings, questionable draft picks. Chase Young was his first-ever pick and he just traded him away for a compensatory pick. Regardless of what you think about Young’s ceiling, that’s just a tough pill to swallow. Young didn’t help himself either. Rivera has continually fumbled the QB situation and may luck out with Howell, something he keeps reminding everyone of. Make no mistake, Rivera isn’t the one who discovered Howell could play. Regardless of how Howell turns out, Rivera will not be with Washington to see his growth past this season. The coaching staff has been an issue during his tenure, too. Another failure of Rivera is the constant slow starts. His teams get hot in November every year only to fade down the stretch.

With Chase Young and Montez Sweat gone, who needs to step up at EDGE?

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

James Smith-Williams and Casey Toohill are steady fourth-year players from the same draft class as Young. Neither are nearly as explosive as Young and Sweat, but Toohill is a good rusher. Smith-Williams is more of a run defender. The Commanders do have two rookies, K.J. Henry and Andre Jones Jr. I suspect we will see them play more as the season progresses. Washington was never signing both, which made trading them both a surprise. They wanted to keep Sweat, but that deal was too good to pass up. They were done with Young. Sweat got a huge extension from the Bears that Washington was likely not going to pay. Sweat is a terrific all-around player, but he’s never developed into a dominant pass rusher.

What's your prediction for this week's game?

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

I can truly see this game coming down to the wire. But Washington is so unpredictable. The Seahawks are more talented across the board, but the Commanders have shown they can score. It’s all about protecting Howell. I think Seattle wins the game, something along the lines of 27-23.

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