HomeFootball DirtNFL: Commanders, Quarterbacks, Eric Bieniemy, Dallas Cowboys, Alex Smith, Nick Saban, New...

NFL: Commanders, Quarterbacks, Eric Bieniemy, Dallas Cowboys, Alex Smith, Nick Saban, New York Giants

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The Commanders centered their 2023 offseason on Sam Howell, who had played all of one game as a rookie. While the second-year passer showed some encouraging signs, the team was prepared to bench him for Jacoby Brissett late in the season. Howell did become the first Washington quarterback to go wire to wire as the starter since Kirk Cousins in 2017, but the team lost eight straight games to end the season. It remains likely the Commanders draft a QB at No. 2 overall rather than turn to Howell and perhaps another Brissett-level vet as competition, ESPN.com’s John Keim writes.

Washington held the No. 2 overall pick in 2020 but had just taken Dwayne Haskins in the 2019 first round. This effectively took them out of the Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert sweepstakes, joining the Giants (who had chosen Daniel Jones in 2019) in that regard. Washington then took Chase Young. Timing was an issue for the team then, but Howell’s presence — especially with a new owner, HC and football ops boss in town — is unlikely to represent a sufficient deterrent to impede a QB investment this year. Two years remain on Howell’s rookie contract.

Here is the latest from the NFC East:

  • With the Commanders being the seventh team to hire a head coach, and not doing so until Feb. 1, Eric Bieniemy received confirmation he was out late during this year’s hiring period. The one-and-done Commanders OC signed a multiyear deal in 2023, and ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler notes the former HC interview mainstay could well take a year off — as money will continue to come in from Washington — and regroup for a 2025 return to the sideline. Bieniemy, 54, may be off the HC radar; but the longtime Chiefs assistant could well resurface as an OC candidate — particularly given this position’s turnover rate in recent years — in 2025. The possibility the Chiefs bring him back, as they did Matt Nagy, also should not be discounted.
  • Over the past decade and change, the Cowboys have generally done well in the first round. They have landed a number of All-Pros — from Tyron Smith to Travis Frederick to Zack Martin to CeeDee Lamb to Micah Parsons — and a few other regular starters. Mazi Smith‘s trajectory is less certain to produce an impact player. Last year’s No. 26 overall pick played 304 defensive snaps as a rookie and logged only four in Dallas’ wild-card loss. Pro Football Focus rated the Michigan alum as one of the worst D-tackle regulars last season. The Cowboys were displeased Smith dropped around 20 pounds from his Combine weight (323) at points last season, per the Dallas Morning News’ Michael Gehlken. Drafted as a player who could potentially anchor the Cowboys’ interior D-line, Smith has work to do. The Cowboys also have starter Johnathan Hankins due for free agency in a few weeks.
  • This can be field in the “what if?” department, but as the Giants interviewed Louis Riddick for their GM job — during the cycle that produced the Dave Gettleman hire — the ESPN talent/ex-NFL exec said (h/t Empire Sports Media’s Anthony Rivardo) he reached out to Nick Saban to gauge his interest in becoming the team’s head coach. The Giants interviewed Riddick in December 2017; the ex-Monday Night Football analyst had been up for a few GM jobs around that point. Riddick was also a defensive back during Saban’s tenure under Bill Belichick in Cleveland in the early 1990s. (Saban was the Browns’ DC from 1991-94.) The Alabama icon, who retired last month, was loosely connected to the Giants’ coaching job during the cycle that produced the Ben McAdoo promotion. Saban, who coached the Dolphins for two years (2005-06) before leaving for Tuscaloosa, was not interested in the Giants’ job during the cycle that ended with the Pat Shurmur hire in 2018.

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