Eric Bieniemy in charge, Sam Howell taking a step: Observations from Commanders OTAs


With the impending sale of the Commanders on the horizon, there is a renewed energy around the team, but Wednesday during OTA session number two, football was the main course.

All eyes were on the new offensive coordinator and assistant head coach, Eric Bieniemy. And it was evident from the first whistle of practice on Wednesday that there’s a new sheriff in town on offense.

The passion, energy, and attention to detail were on full display during the session. Multiple times throughout the session you heard Bieniemy's voice. Whether he was barking out demands or encouraging the guys to move with more pace, it was very clear that the standard offensively has risen for 2023. Coaching, however, isn’t all about yelling. After one red zone touchdown catch by tight end Cole Turner from Sam Howell, Bieniemy immediately instructed the group to line it back up and “do it the right way.”

After the offense ran the same play over and scored, Bieniemy was the first one singing the praises of the group. “Perfect, perfect, perfect,” he yelled. Afterward, the OC pulled wide receiver Curtis Samuel to the side and walked him through exactly how he wanted the route executed.

One other Bieniemy observation; it doesn’t matter who you are, he demands maximum effort. When Howell threw an interception during 7-on7 to Percy Butler. He ripped into the second-year quarterback for not chasing Butler down after throwing the pick.“You threw it, you go get it” Bieniemy barked.

It’s early, but it’s very clear, the new OC brings the juice.

Wednesday’s session was the first time the media saw Howell since his Week 18 NFL debut against Dallas. Since then the team has made it clear that he will have every opportunity to be the starting QB come September.

During the session, Howell continued to show why the coaches are optimistic about his future. Yes, it’s OTAs, so it’s difficult to get a good gauge of how guys look. However, the quarterback had moments that show the strides he has made from this time last year. The biggest takeaway was how confident he looked. For a young passer learning a brand new system, you expect to see moments where he looked like a deer in headlights, but that wasn't the case.

Despite two red zone interceptions, Howell looked to be in total command of the offense and the ball was coming out on time and on target. Despite only standing at six-foot-one it was evident his arm strength will provide a major boost for this offense. Case and point was Howell uncorking an absolute rocket to Terry McLaurin, who got behind the defense. Unfortunately, McLaurin couldn’t haul it in, but the arm strength was no issue.

Some more practice observations

• TE Logan Thomas looked really fluid getting in and out of breaks. Based on the early work, he will be a major piece to this offense

• Fourth-year offensive lineman Saahdiq Charles appears to have the leg up over second-year guard Chris Paul for the left guard spot entering a huge make-or-break year for Charles. But this spot is up for grabs once camp rolls around.

• WR Dyami Brown got a decent amount of work with the 1st team offense. Having his former college QB under center hopefully helps expand his role in year three.

• New starting center Nick Gates already establishing himself as one of the vocal leaders on the Commanders offensive line. The former New York Giant showed great command getting guys huddled up, much to Bieniemy's liking.

• Kazmeir Allen, the undrafted rookie WR from UCLA, turned some heads during the 7-on-7 work with two touchdowns. I expect him to challenge Dax Milne and Brown for a roster spot.

• Out of all the position groups, the secondary seems to have the most competition. When Washington drafted Emmanuel Forbes and Quan Martin in back-to-back rounds, a lot of folks wondered who would be the odd man out. News flash: don’t be shocked if Washington lines up with five or more defensive backs on the field at a time with those two joining Darrick Forrest, Kam Curl, Benjamin St. Juste and Kendall Fuller.

Follow Lynnell Willingham for more here.

Keep up with The Team 980 via:
Audacy App  Online Stream  Twitter |  Facebook |  Instagram

Featured Image Photo Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports