Washington Football Team: Recapping Taylor Heinicke’s performance
Offensively, I don’t believe there’s much to complain about when it comes to the Washington Football Team. Although Scott Turner dialed up great play calls that Heinicke couldn’t cash in on, like Deandre Carter down the seam in the first quarter, you still walk away from this game satisfied from your QB position.
One year ago, Heinicke was this teams’ COVID-Quarterback. You thought that if Washington had to play Heinicke, they would be in big trouble. We’ve come to find out that, that isn’t necessarily true.
For some reason, I can sit here and break down numbers and talk tape with you, we can talk about the intricacies of certain coverages and I can tell you about the interesting aspects of offensive and defensive line play, but sometimes football isn’t that complicated. Taylor Heinicke, for some reason, despite coming into the season as the clear number two quarterback, raises his play to a level that’s arguably the highest level at the position that we’ve seen here in D.C. over the last five years.
He may not be the greatest athlete, the greatest passer, he doesn’t have much NFL experience at all. For some reason, the 28-year-old, former math student at ODU just days before answering the call to join the team, has proven that he can hang around in this league among the best athletes on the planet.
The interception was a backbreaker. It was something that was both unacceptable play-calling wise coupled with poor execution. That was his biggest mistake of the night and one of the few times he really put this game in danger. Other than that, considering they walked out with a victory, no matter how ugly, you take it within your division any day of the week.
Sometimes, football is ugly. Winning ugly is always better than losing pretty. If Taylor Heinicke can play at this level over the next eight weeks, don’t be surprised if Washington finds themselves around 4-5 or 5-4 once Ryan Fitzpatrick comes back at full-health. Despite shockingly inefficient defensive play from the Washington Football Team, Taylor Heinicke has proven that in stretches, he can lead this offense to 24 or more points in a ballgame.
He seems to have built rapport rather quickly with wide receiver Terry McLaurin, who caught 11 balls on 14 targets, for over 100 yards and a touchdown. McLaurin has emerged as one of the league’s elite wide receivers in the game, despite national media not being behind him, McLaurin is a bonafide superstar at the position. From your school position players, McLaurin lead the way and set the tone for those around him.
In addition, running back JD McKissic was a sleeper to watch for this week from my point of view and it ultimately came to light. McKissic is one of the most versatile weapons on this Washington office, for this offense to click and for Heinicke to find a rhythm, they must utilize JD‘s versatile skill set in the gun and out wide.
Washington must do whatever it takes to keep Heinicke in rhythm because once the 28-year-old gets in a groove, he’s shown the ability to string together nine and 10 straight completions in a ball game. That happened on Thursday night, there were times where it happened against Carolina and Tampa Bay as well.
If he can play like an average starting NFL quarterback, Washington could potentially have a short-term answer at the position that is much better than any other option on the roster. By the way, that’s including a healthy Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Defensively, this group needs a ton of work. It is inexcusable and unacceptable for a group this talented, coached by these fantastic defensive football minds, to underachieve as they have.
The third-down defense tonight was improved as they gave up around 30 percent of their third downs, but they did have a couple of penalties on said down. The defense on this particular down was better than last week’s atrocity, but there’s still plenty of room to grow.
They were absolutely flat for nearly 3.5 quarters, but to commend them on their effort, they came up with big stops when they needed to. It looks like there’s a lack of continuity and communication with the back seven. In both weeks this season, you had opposing teams’ skill position players salsa dancing into the second and third level, untouched and unbothered.
Schematically Jack Del Rio needs to fix that because either the personnel doesn’t fit the scheme he’s trying to work here, or flat out the personnel doesn’t have any sense of communication or comfort within the scheme.
If it’s a mixture of both, Del Rio and Ron Rivera must go into the lab and figure out ways to maximize the skill set of each talent on their defense. This group is littered with versatility and talent. That is unquestioned. That’s why it’s such a shock to see this group constantly fail and giving up big plays, whether it be on the ground or through the air. They have a lot to work on and they need to tighten things up.
If not, they will enter next week’s game against Buffalo and get thrashed by 35 points without question. Luckily for them, they’ll have ten days to iron out mistakes and get back with one another, improving by the day.
In previous pieces I mentioned how I’d like for them to run more Cover Six zone than anything, according to Nicki Jhabvala, they’ve run zone at the sixth lowest clip in the league. We don’t know exactly which zone they run the most just yet, but communication is key while in coverage, this group, even if they’re looking to play heavy man coverage, will need to improve from a communication aspect because that’s their biggest issue as of now.
In terms of their pass rush, they got home four times tonight. That’s a positive, but Montez Sweat and Chase Young need to be better. Both are much more bull rushers, power rushers, leaning on their athleticism rather than refined technique. Both must improve those aspects of their pass-rushing arsenal if they want to be considered some of the best players at their position.
Not only that, if they want to have a consistent impact, they need to make their technique first and lean on their athletic gifts to benefit the technique that they’ve perfected in practice. That can happen gradually throughout the season, but for now, that should be their main focus so Washington can maximize their potential going forward.
In totality, this was a huge win for Washington. This was a must-win game for the Washington football team, regardless of how you feel about week two’s having “must-win” features about them. Ron Rivera has mentioned in the past that they didn’t want to be 0-2 with a trip to Buffalo ahead. Rivera and this group got their wish.
Regardless of how ugly it was, trust me it was bad, they still pulled off a win. Good teams find a way to win ugly. I go back to the sentiment that everyone has heard before: it’s much better to win ugly than to lose pretty.