The Washington Football Team‘s need to find a long-term answer at quarterback becomes increasingly apparent with each passing week.
It brings us no joy to say that, but it’s just the reality of things.
Taylor Heinicke is a phenomenal talent and an inspiring story. He’s proven in just seven career starts that he belongs in the NFL. However, most fans would agree that he’s more of a high-end backup than an every week starter.
There’s nothing wrong with that. It was always a long shot that Heinicke would assert himself as Washington’s franchise quarterback.
With all that being said, is it fair to question that Washington isn’t maximizing Heinicke’s skillset to the best of their ability? You might not think so, but the numbers from Sunday’s loss to Kansas City tell a different story.
Is Washington handicapping Taylor Heinicke’s skillset?
Let’s make it clear that we aren’t making excuses for Heinicke. His last two performances aren’t going to help Washington win games.
However, has anyone else noticed that Heinicke has been extremely hesitant to make use of his athleticism and scramble? His speed and ability to elude pass rushers can be likened to some of the most mobile QBs in the league.
Yes, we’re talking about the likes of Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes, Kyler Murray, Josh Allen and Russell Wilson. So why is Washington seemingly insisting Heinicke to beat teams with his right arm?
In each one of Heinicke’s seven starts before Sunday, he logged at least three rushing attempts, whether it be via improvisation or a designed run. He failed to register a single rushing attempt against the Chiefs.
Here’s what Ron Rivera had to say about Heinicke’s performance and the conservative approach on offense in Sunday’s game.
“It was trying to take what was given more so than anything else. The game plan just calls for you to go through your progression.”
That’s fair, but the game plan should also call for Heinicke to utilize his athleticism to keep defense’s honest. With all due respect to the Old Dominion product, he doesn’t have the arm talent to win games against high-powered offenses without wreaking havoc on the ground.
The crazy part about Rivera’s postgame presser is that he lauded Mahomes’ ability to “get outside the pocket and make something happen” in the second half. Yeah, no kidding. It works. Maybe try doing the same with your own dynamic QB?
Take this particular play as an example. Heinicke makes a cavalcade of Chiefs defenders miss and he insists on running back behind his offensive line to try and make a play downfield instead of scrambling and picking up the first down. At worst, he could’ve turned a huge loss into a potential 4th and short.
Is that Heinicke’s instincts telling him to avoid the line of scrimmage at all costs? Or is it the product of Rivera, Scott Turner, and the coaching staff drilling it in his head that he should always look to pass?
Perhaps it’s a mixture of both, but one thing is for certain and that is Washington’s offense, which is down several playmakers, will continue to sputter and struggle to sustain long drives if Heinicke is strictly utilized as a pocket passer.
That’s not who he is and that’s not the direction the NFL is headed.