Commanders’ eyes now fully on future — and Patriots

Although they may have found their quarterback of the future, the Washington Commanders are still very much in the process of rebuilding.After shipping out their top two pass rushers at the trade deadline, the Commanders will begin a somewhat new era on Sunday when they travel to Foxborough, Mass., to face the New England Patriots.Washington (3-5) was a seller on Tuesday, dealing Montez Sweat to the Chicago Bears for a 2024 second-round pick before sending fellow defensive end Chase Young to the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for a 2024 third-round pick.Sweat led Washington with 6.5 sacks, while Young was second on the team with five.While the Commanders have shifted course defensively, it’s starting to look as if they might have finally found an answer to their problems under center.Washington has had 12 starting quarterbacks dating back to the 2018 season, but 23-year-old Sam Howell has emerged as a potential long-term option at the position. He put together his best effort of the season last Sunday during a 38-31 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, completing 39 of 52 passes for 397 yards, four touchdowns and one interception.Over his past four games, Howell has completed 66.7 percent of his passes for 1,185 yards, nine TDs and three picks.”It’s something that we’ve talked about,” Commanders coach Ron Rivera said of having Howell direct the offense for years to come. “I think when you start seeing the production that he’s having, it’s now time for us to go out and do the things that we’re capable of.”Howell will now go up against a New England defense that struggled to contain Tua Tagovailoa last weekend, allowing him to throw for 324 yards and three scores as the Miami Dolphins picked up a 31-17 victory.Like Washington, the Patriots (2-6) also entered this season with the hopes of having a franchise quarterback in the making.New England selected Mac Jones with the 15th overall pick in the 2021 draft, and the strides the team was hoping to see him make in Year 3 haven’t been there. When asked if the Patriots were going to stick with Jones moving forward following the loss to Miami, coach Bill Belichick deflected the question.”We all need to play better,” he said. “We all just need to coach and play better.”

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