Ron Rivera lays out plan for Commanders starters, QBs in preseason opener

(Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports) Ron Rivera
(Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports) Ron Rivera /

Washington Commanders football is back, baby. On Saturday, Washington will welcome the Carolina Panthers to FedEx Field. Sure, it’s only the preseason and camp is still in full-swing, but fans have new uniforms, helmets, a fight song, quarterback and an intriguing rookie class to look forward to.

While the end result ultimately doesn’t matter, the important thing is the Commanders limit mistakes (looking at you, Carson Wentz), avoid major injuries (easier said than done) and see legitimate growth from young players.

At the end of the day, that’s all that matters, but fans are surely itching to know how long starters will play in the preseason opener.

While addressing the media Thursday, head coach Ron Rivera outlined the plan, saying starters, including Wentz, will get about 15-20 plays.

How much will Carson Wentz and the Commanders’ starters play in Saturday’s preseason opener?

Most teams opt against playing their starters in Game 1 of the preseason, but Washington has a new quarterback at the helm. One drive is usually the standard, but 15-20 plays could range anywhere between two-four drives.

The reason for that? Rivera wants the starters (mostly the offense) to encounter a variety of different scenarios and see how they execute.

"“We hope we get all kinds of situational football,” Rivera said. “We’d love to see a couple of third downs. We’d love to see some red zone stuff, obviously, and then some short-yardage and goal-line [situations]. You hope for that in your first game. That’s why you target somewhere between 15-20 plays, have a nice drive somewhere — eight or nine plays — and stuff like that.”"

Rivera isn’t setting major expectations for Saturday, but he noted he wants to see “consistency in the huddle” and success with the plays that are called. As long as those things happen with relative execution it’ll be a successful day at the office.

While Wentz will start the game and could play into the second quarter, Rivera later explained all three quarterbacks will see the field. The plan is for Heinicke to relieve Wentz and play into the third with rookie Sam Howell serving as the closer.

Everyone is obviously excited to see Wentz in the Burgundy and Gold for the first time, but Howell arguably offers the most intrigue of the three QBs this preseason. The fifth-round pick out of UNC has impressed in camp and could (potentially) leapfrog Heinicke for the backup role if he balls out in preseason.

Of course, Howell will have to show a strong grasp of the playbook and improved efficiency at all levels of the passing game (not just the deep ball) to make that leap, but there’s a reason the rookie has fans excited about his potential.

It might only be the preseason, but there are several underlying storylines that make Saturday’s contest a must-watch for Commanders fans.

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