Taylor Heinicke remains the Commanders’ QB

HOUSTON — The Washington Commanders will stay with Taylor Heinicke as quarterback as long as he continues to play well and the team keeps winning, a source confirmed to ESPN.

Heinicke helped Washington win 3-1 in place of the injured Carson Wentz and will start for the fifth straight Sunday when the Commanders (5-5) visit the Houston Texans (1-7-1).

Wentz remains on injured reserve with a right ring finger sprain sustained in an Oct. 13 win in Chicago. He was eligible to leave IR last week but Washington didn’t feel ready.

However, the deployment of commanders with Heinicke in the middle has left the organization with a choice when Wentz activates. Coach Ron Rivera said last week that he would not reveal his intentions before speaking to the players. A source told ESPN that Wentz was briefed on the decision to stay with Heinicke.

It’s also possible for Wentz to return to the starting XI sooner rather than later – but only if Heinicke and the offensive fight and the Commanders lose again.

The current scenario with Heinicke as the starter is what a source would have predicted a few weeks ago if the commanders had responded well to Heinicke and won.

Washington made a solid investment in acquiring Wentz, trading a third-round pick in 2022 and a conditional third-round pick in 2023 to the Indianapolis Colts. Teams also traded second-round picks last April. Wentz counts $28.294 million on Washington’s salary cap.

The decision to start Heinicke affects the conditional pick for Indianapolis. If Wentz plays at least 70% of Washington’s snaps this season, the Commanders would owe the Colts a second-round pick. Wentz has currently played 59.1% of the team’s offensive games. At Washington’s current pace, if Heinicke starts another game after Sunday, the Colts would only get a third-round pick.

Wentz threw a total of seven touchdown passes in Washington’s first two games, but the offense struggled in the following four games, averaging just 47 points in that stretch.

For the season, Wentz threw 10 touchdown passes and six interceptions while playing on a new offensive system for the first time in his seven seasons. He was sacked 23 times due to that learning curve, inconsistent pass protection and a loss of mobility due to knee and back injuries. Wentz has a 32.5 QBR.

Heinicke, who has spent part of five seasons on this offense, has helped with his mobility as well as his penchant for connecting to top receiver Terry McLaurin. In six games with Wentz, McLaurin had 36 goals and 22 receptions; In four games with Heinicke, he has 37 goals and 24 catches.

Heinicke has thrown five touchdowns and four interceptions but has only been dismissed nine times in five starts and has a 46.6 QBR. He’s also a popular player in the locker room for his underdog story — the former undrafted free agent from Old Dominion who slept on his sister’s couch two years ago — and his no-holds-barred style of play.

Rivera’s comments Tuesday hinted at that decision.

“You have to look at the momentum and the spirit on the team,” Rivera said a day after Heinicke helped upset the previously undefeated Philadelphia Eagles. “There are many factors.”

The NFL Network first reported on the commanders’ decision to stay with Heinicke.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *