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Sam Howell Cannot Stop Getting Sacked

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - OCTOBER 22: Dexter Lawrence II #97 and Kayvon Thibodeaux #5 of the New York Giants sack Sam Howell #14 of the Washington Commanders in the second quarter of the game at MetLife Stadium on October 22, 2023 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images)
Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

What's your favorite Sam Howell highlight from this season? Is it the play where he drops back, looks around for about two seconds, then shrinks to protect the football as the entire opposing defensive line closes in on him? You'll have to be more specific, since that's basically all he's done this season. Since we first checked in on Howell's ability as a world-class sack-taker two weeks ago, the Washington Commanders quarterback has kept up the pace, with some help from his porous offensive line.

The New York Giants entered Sunday's game against Washington with five total sacks for the season; they sacked Howell six times in their 14-7 win. Analyze the highlight reel and you'll see that Howell holds onto the ball for too long, but also that the line crumbles almost instantly on some plays. Giants nose tackle Dexter Lawrence, who had two of those sacks, played a key role in that pressure, which was part of the Giants' gameplan so that Howell was forced to make quick decisions. New York blitzed on 29 of Howell's 49 dropbacks, almost double the Giants' normal blitz rate of 30.1.

The same goal can be accomplished by forcing Howell to scramble a little bit. Consider his throw behind Jahan Dotson on a critical fourth-and-5 on the Giants' 7-yard line with one minute left in the fourth quarter. The Giants didn't collect their seventh sack of the afternoon, but by getting Howell out of the pocket, they achieved the desired result. "Everyone has a hand in it," Howell said after the loss. "A lot of the sacks this year, I think I could’ve done a better job of getting rid of the ball. Then there [are] times that we get beat up front."

Howell has now been sacked 40 times through seven games, getting him more than halfway to David Carr's all-time record of 76 in 2002. No other quarterback this season has been sacked even 30 times. Howell is currently on pace to take 97 sacks over the full season—assuming the constant hits from defenders don't take their toll and cause him to miss time. At this point, he might welcome a break.

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