Ryan Fitzpatrick is going on injured reserve with a hip injury, and Washington is turning to Taylor Heinicke to start at quarterback against the New York Giants on Thursday night.
Cam Newton is not walking through that door, and Robert Griffin III is not walking through that door. This is Heinicke and Kyle Allen’s show for the foreseeable future, and coach Ron Rivera does not plan on bringing in a veteran QB any time soon.
“We like the guys that we have,” Rivera said Monday. “We’ve had them play for us. They’ve done some good things for us, so we’ll see what happens.”
Heinicke will be the 10th quarterback to start a regular-season game for Washington since releasing Griffin in 2016. Despite RG3 tweeting, “Make the call” and a clip of his 76-yard touchdown run from his rookie year 2012, a return of the former face of the franchise turned ESPN analyst is not in Rivera’s plans.
The plan is Heinicke starting, Allen backing up and Kyle Shurmur serving as the emergency third option. Washington signed the son of former Giants coach and current Broncos offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur to the practice squad Monday.
Heinicke was originally brought in last season as Washington’s “quarantine quarterback” after Denver was forced to start a wide receiver because of virus protocols. He quickly went from out of football taking college classes online to making a surprise playoff start in place of injured veteran Alex Smith — and almost pulling off a stunning comeback against Tom Brady and the eventual Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Heinicke threw for 306 yards and a touchdown in the wild-card round but also separated his left shoulder diving for the pylon. Allen is coming off surgery to repair a broken left ankle and Heinicke plays with a certain reckless abandon, but Rivera did not express any concern about the risk of injury at the position.
“I’m as confident as I can be,” Rivera said. ”You just never know what’s going to happen.”
Rivera is excited to see what happens with Heinicke running the offense. While the college star at Old Dominion has not started a regular-season NFL game since 2018 for Carolina under Rivera, Heinicke became popular among teammates and fans for his playoff performance.
“I think our guys will rally around him,” Rivera said. “Some guys have an innate ability to create some enthusiasm, some excitement. And that’s kind of a little bit about Taylor because of the way he plays. He plays a little bit like a hair’s on fire, plays a little bit like a gunslinger.”
Rivera hopes Heinicke has matured and understands his job, which is crucial after Washington lost Fitzpatrick a quarter and a half into the season opener Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers. It did not look good right away when Fitzpatrick was helped to his feet and went right back down, and tests confirmed a right hip subluxation — an injury in which the ball of the hip comes out of the socket.
Fitzpatrick will see a specialist for a second opinion, Rivera said, and it’s not clear if the 38-year-old will miss the remainder of the season. Going on injured reserve means he will miss at least the next three games.
The offense has some real talent at skill positions around whoever’s at quarterback. Second-year running back Antonio Gibson’s fumble proved costly against the Chargers, but he ran for 90 yards, rookie receiver Dyami Brown had a strong NFL debut replacing Curtis Samuel, and Terry McLaurin made maybe the catch of the season, so Heinicke will have plenty to work with.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The defense, which is not what anyone expected after the unit ranked second in the league last season. Each L.A. drive reached the red zone, and the pass rush led by Chase Young and Montez Sweat only sacked Justin Herbert twice. That’s the opposite of Washington’s recipe for success.
Brown only made one catch but drew a 35-yard pass interference penalty by blowing past defensive back Asante Samuel Jr. “His speed showed up,” Rivera said. “Knowing what he can do and how he can do it is going to help us going forward.”
Two rookies got off to a rough start: right tackle Sam Cosmi and cornerback Benjamin St-Juste. Joey Bosa and others blew past Cosmi at will, and Herbert kept throwing at St-Juste, including the go-ahead TD pass to Mike Williams.
Gibson banged up his left shoulder against the Chargers, got treatment and returned. Beyond Gibson and Fitzpatrick, Washington’s only other injury is to wide receiver Curtis Samuel: a lingering groin problem that will keep him out at least the next two games.
5 — as in the five third-down stops Washington got on 19 Chargers opportunities, a conversion rate of 73.7% that is unsustainable if there’s any hope of contending for the NFC East title.
Rest up for the short turnaround before facing Daniel Jones and the Giants. Jones is 4-0 against Washington and 4-19 against everyone else.
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