Alex Smith inactive, Taylor Heinicke to start for Washington in Wild Card game vs. Buccaneers

Alex Smith inactive, Taylor Heinicke to start for Washington in Wild Card game originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The Washington Football Team will start Taylor Heinicke at quarterback against the Buccaneers in Saturday night’s Wild Card game. 

That’s right – Taylor Heinicke against Tom Brady in the playoffs. 

It’s not the plan Ron Rivera envisioned when the week began. Veteran QB Alex Smith has been battling a calf strain since a win over the 49ers in Week 14 that caused him to miss two games. 

Washington obviously preferred to go with Smith at starting quarterback for the team’s first playoff game since 2016, but after gutting out a two touchdown, two interception performance last week in a division-clinching win over the Eagles, the calf strain never recovered in time to take on Tampa. 

That means instead of the former No. 1 overall pick Smith, Washington will roll with the undrafted Heinicke.

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By this point people are familiar with the story – Washington only signed Heinicke in early December. When he got the call to join the Burgundy and Gold, Heinicke was in the middle of online final exams at Old Dominion University.

Heinicke has deep knowledge of Washington’s offensive system, as the 27-year-old QB first signed with the Vikings in 2016 and worked with current offensive coordinator Scott Turner. 

In his NFL career, Heinicke has one start and 77 pass attempts, two TDs and three INTs. 

In about a quarter of action in Week 16 for Washington, Heinicke impressed. He completed 12 of 19 passes for 137 yards with a touchdown, and he also ran the ball three times for 22 yards and repeatedly showed some slipperiness in the pocket. 

What’s crazy – Heinicke will be the fourth starting quarterback for Washington this season.

Way back in September, this was Dwayne Haskins’ team. He got benched after a Week 4 loss to Baltimore in favor of Kyle Allen. He got hurt in a Week 9 loss to the Giants, which brought Smith to the forefront. Smith injured his calf in Week 14, which brought Haskins back to the starting job. Through poor performance on the field and worse performance off the field, Haskins got cut in late December, and that made Heinicke the backup. 

It’s been a long, strange trip for Washington in 2020, and now that means Heinicke starts against Tampa in the playoffs. 

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner, NBC Sports Washington. Sign up for NBC Sports Washington’s free email subscription today.

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