Washington’s 2022 season will be exciting since Ken Zampese is in charge of a talented group of quarterbacks. Some examples include Carson Wentz, a former No. 2 overall pick who was traded by the Philadelphia Eagles and then the Indianapolis Colts in consecutive years after failing to live up to expectations; Taylor Heinicke, an Old Dominion student who almost killed Tom Brady (within a month!) and then became the team’s full-time starter last season; and Sam Howell, who was expected to be a top-five draft pick but fell all the way to the fifth round after an unimpressive 2021.
In Washington, Wentz will play out what could be his final season as a starting quarterback in the NFL, while Heinicke will sit on the bench ready to make an instant impact if needed and Howell will try to recapture the magic of 2020 while readjusting to the NFL. Zampese, 55, enters his 19th season as a quarterbacks coach in the NFL and is responsible for guiding all of these guys.
Zampese spoke with CBS Sports about Wentz’s potential, Howell’s ongoing progress, and more in advance of the Commanders’ preseason debut against the Carolina Panthers on Saturday afternoon.
Note that this interview has been condensed and simplified for your reading pleasure.
WAS 7 YD/Att 6.91 QB • 11 CMP% 62.4 YDs 3563 TD 27 INT In the event that Carson Wentz Examine Persona
How did you feel when you first heard that Carson Wentz would be playing for your team?
“I could hardly contain my ecstasy. My expectations skyrocketed, and so did my confidence. I just know that good things will occur when you combine ability with an accountable individual and then hold that individual to high standards. When? I don’t know. But we’re heading in an upward trajectory permanently, and I knew that was a fair exchange. He’s a very talented NFL passer, and I’m glad we were able to snag him. Tell me about your first impressions of Wentz on the job. He can’t help but obsess on the smallest of particulars. He is curious and wants to share his findings to ensure that everyone is on the same page. That has been evident ever from the beginning, when it was just the two of us. You see the players communicating and going back to speak about a rep after it has already been done to come to a greater understanding so that the next time, you can anticipate it a bit more and get better balls, better looks, and better locations.”
Do you think that’s the most notable quality of Wentz? Have you been captivated solely by this?
“That’s the one you want, because it means the guy is committed to accomplishing what you’re suggesting and is actively working to implement your ideas. We’re just making it our offense this year, and he brings his own stuff from where he’s been, so there are (additions) and there are things that we deleted. Our offensive 2022 Commanders.”
Is there evidence that he pays close attention to the tiniest of details?
“Certain lines are where we say, “Oh, our focus is over here,” and he says, “Hey, if I can achieve this look on the backside, can we put this on it?” That’s how certain you can be that he’s taking in the whole picture. If we can pull it off, and if it pays off (meaning we get another chance to toss the ball to Terry McLaurin), then we’ve got ourselves a sweet bargain. It’s something where both of you have a bird’s-eye view of the entire playing field and how we’re putting all the pieces to use. That’s where the excitement lies.”
Assuming Wentz starts the season behind center, what will be the most noticeable difference in the offense this year?”
Well, he definitely has a style all his own that stands out from the crowd. He has complete field access. He is a master of the short game. What has usually stood out has stood out. His natural ability to throw long passes downfield has him near the top 10 in the league. Furthermore, his method of leadership and internal communication. He takes the time to talk to each of the guys individually and sincerely.”
Coach Ron Rivera has said that Wentz’s erratic accuracy this camp is due to him learning a new scheme and working out kinks in his timing with his fast receivers. How long does it take a quarterback to get completely at ease in a new offensive system?” There is no limit. There’s no need for a scientific explanation; you may simply recognize it as time passes. Things that are easy to do usually remain easy. In spite of its seeming simplicity, this idea is difficult to grasp since you can’t see the gears turning. The message is finally reaching the intended audience of males. The speed with which you can go from one read to another and think, “Oh, shoot, OK, he’s got that one” is also important. In general, we approve of this idea. Okay, let’s up our game a bit. Even if you can’t pinpoint the precise moment when it happens, you’ll recognize it when you see it.”
When you think of training camp, do you see it?”
Here we are in the process. It’s just the nature of training camp that some days are better than others. It’s the same as for everybody else who moves into a brand-new building. We haven’t been with anyone for the past six years. We’ve been with this person for six months now, and while some other guys have been here before, they haven’t done it with us. Our offensive is where we hope to establish a long-term winning culture.”
On Saturday, Wentz will receive the nod at quarterback for the Eagles in their preseason opener against the Panthers. Coach Ron Rivera has stated his desire to give his starters at least 20 snaps in the contest. I’m curious as to what sort of development you want to see in Wentz during this period.
“Just get the ball moving down the field, please. What’s important is that we’re finding ways to protect the football, take advantage of the defense, and capitalize on big plays when we get them, and that everything is running smoothly and to everyone’s satisfaction. Let’s see the offensive unfold as planned, with the ball moving and first downs being converted and, of course, points being scored. After we’ve done it for real, rather than just in practice, we’ll be able to return to it with much more assurance.”
The Eagles are Wentz’s third organization in as many seasons. Exactly what factors do you see in Washington that would make it a good long-term fit for him? “The fact that he can get things done on Sundays is something we’ve witnessed firsthand. It gives me hope that if we can get the ball out to these guys, we’ll be able to make some very, very fruitful plays, both short- and long-distance. We have some very good skill men.”
To shift gears, here’s Sam Howell: You’ve tutored a number of successful starting quarterback rookies (Carson Palmer, Andy Dalton, Baker Mayfield, etc.) What makes Howell unique in terms of the skills he offers the NFL?” He’s respectful, has a strong throwing arm, and is open to instruction. That sums up Sam quite well. He takes in every detail of every meeting and is eager to learn more, and if I say, “Hey Sam, let’s get together before or after practice,” he immediately responds, “Yes sir,” and we get right to work. And that will help him much in being swift rather than slow. He takes direction well, is very motivated and focused in his job, and takes pride in his accomplishments. The other thing that stands out about him is how proud he is of himself. He has high ambitions for himself in this field, as he should and can achieve them.
WAS 14 QB View Profile S. Howell, Sam Examine Persona “If he throws poorly, he doesn’t use it as an excuse to give up. Rather than saying, “Yeah, you know I just missed one,” he says, “I can do all of these things, and when I don’t, I’m really dissatisfied.” He is confident in his abilities and expects success. Whatever.’ When it comes to him, things don’t work out that way. He is a good disciplinarian.” This makes him very unhappy. Rookie mistakes are inevitable, yet the agony of failure is felt all the same. And if you don’t turn that knowledge into action, you won’t benefit from it. The key is that he utilizes the stings as motivation, which is true every year but especially as a rookie because you get so many of them.”
In what ways do you hope he develops the most as a rookie?”
If his pocket can slide and move like that, he’ll have my attention. And then there’s the coolheadedness to realize when you’ve had enough and go out while you still can. Out here on one-hitch, we’ve seen him dribble and pass the ball around with ease. We’ll finally get to see the results of his hard work in the upcoming game. Show me how you do with improv.”
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