Sam Howell Remains Starter
The Commanders (5-9) benched QB Sam Howell in the fourth quarter down, 28-7, to the Rams in Los Angeles. Washington HC Ron Rivera, however, said that Howell would remain the starter even though backup Jacoby Brissett led a pair of scoring drives and completed 8-of-10 passes for 124 yards.
Howell, drafted in fifth round out of North Carolina in 2022, ranks No. 7 in the NFL with 3,568 passing yards. He has 19 touchdowns and a league-high 15 interceptions. He's been sacked 59 times this season, the most in the NFL.
"[Howell] is doing a really nice job standing in the pocket, delivering the football and he can make every throw on the field," HC Robert Saleh said. "He's an impressive young man. Watching tape, I wasn't expecting much and what I've seen is a dude who's got a definite future in this league as a starter."
He added: "They have a good offense. [OC] Eric [Bieniemy] is doing a really nice job over there orchestrating the concepts and the run game and all that. Talented group and it's going to be a challenge."
Messaging Doesn't Change
The Jets were eliminated from playoff contention last Sunday with three games remaining. Leading into Sunday's Week 16 matchup against the Commanders, Robert Saleh said his message to the team hasn't changed.
"We're still preparing for something bigger," Saleh said. "I know it may not happen this year but there are things we're still playing for whether in your contract year, a young guy trying to find a way to get better to propel himself into 2024, whatever your why is. It's really important a guy is connected to that and at the end of the day I've never subscribed to the idea that players stop playing. They get it. When you step across the white line and you put a helmet on, your résumé is being built. I've never subscribed to the thought that a player quits. They go out there every time they step on the field and play their absolute best. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's not. I've yet to come across a player who has quit just because the season is over."
Young Players Ascending
Perhaps the Green & White will give some of their younger players more opportunities in the last three games of their season. Robert Saleh complimented a pair of young offensive players – TE Jeremy Ruckert and rookie RB Israel Abanikanda.
After recording more than 10 receiving yards one time in his first 18 games, Ruckert, drafted in the third round in 2022 out of Ohio State, has double-digit receiving yards in five straight games.
"Ruck has been outstanding since the day he's walked into this building," Saleh said. "What's impressive about him is that it feels like he's getting stronger as the year has gone on. I think he's done a great job taking care of his body. In the pass game, his ability to get those contested catches and giving those quarterbacks confidence that if you put it in his vicinity, he'll find a way to pluck it, get vertical and try to drag defenders. He's been awesome. He's been an awesome teammate and really excited about him and how he can finish the season."
Abanikanda, the Jets' fifth-round pick out of Pitt, took a career-high 22 snaps Sunday at Miami after he was inactive for the first nine games this season.
"Love Izzy's juice, his speed," Saleh said. "He's a good young man. He's been working hard and he's been patient throughout the year for his opportunity. He's going to get more opportunities. He's been straining, trying to figure out ways to get on to the football field. He has a lot of juice. Just on the few touches he had in the Miami game, you could see a lot of his speed and juice show up. Excited about his progress and the direction he's going."