Why Taylor Heinicke Should Be In Contention To Start

Photo: Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

Third-and-5 from the eight-yard line.

Taylor Heinicke, alongside J.D. McKissic, approached the line with trips right and tight end Logan Thomas in the slot to the left. What happened next could be the start of a legendary tale for burgundy and gold faithful.

As bodies began to jumble around him, Heinicke, as he did so many times during his All-American career at Old Dominion, made something happen out of nothing, scrambling his way to an eight-yard touchdown run that concluded in epic fashion with Heinicke hyperextending his 6-foot-1 frame to gain every inch possible at the pylon.

That play, and his performance during the back half of 2020, could, and should, earn him a shot at strapping up under center for Washington come Week 1. 

The carousel revolving around the quarterback position hasn’t been a storyline kicked under the rug in DC. Along with the Cleveland Browns before the selection of Baker Mayfield, Washington’s turmoil under center has come with some positives, but more importantly, overwhelmingly low negatives. The laundry list of names has run on and on from Jason Campbell, Rex Grossman, John Beck, Josh Johnson, and even, Mark Sanchez. Oof.

And while during that time there were seasons of Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins, both of whom brought division titles to the nation’s capital, both are now gone and have been for some time. 

2021 presents an interesting dynamic for Washington with a trio of gun-slingers capable to suit up and lead offensive coordinator Scott Turner’s offense. Kyle Allen, who played relatively well in four starts last fall, is back following a gruesome ankle injury, and the addition of veteran journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick rounds out a group with high optimism considering Washington’s array of offensive weaponry and established front five. But for Ron Rivera’s unit, what good does it do for a team on the brink of considerable success to head into the fall hoping it works out with Fitzpatrick, a soon-to-be 39-year-old talent with limited upside and longevity issues. Rather, the presence of Heinicke, the most versatile of the three signal-callers, could provide a breath of fresh air into Turner’s elaborate offensive scheme.

And I get it, Fitzpatrick is proven and Heinicke’s performance against Tampa Bay could have been just a flash in the pan, but it surely was a heck of a performance that made many around the league turn their heads. Add in the fact Heinicke had little time to prepare during practice with limited snaps during the regular season, and it becomes increasingly difficult to ignore his pin-point accuracy, zip, and footwork within the pocket against the same defense that went on to not only win the Lombardi Trophy but completely ravage the Kansas City Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes from the opening whistle of Super Bowl 55.

While no one is comparing the quarterbacks the Buccaneers faced on their way to a title to Heinicke, comparing the likes of Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and Mahomes to the former UDFA is fair when eyeing who performed the best against the dominant Buccaneers defense. 304 yards through the air, two touchdowns (one rushing), and 46 yards on the ground to boot isn’t a bad day at the office—if you think Tampa’s defense sat back or not, that excuse simply isn’t valid when going back to the film. 

It comes down to winning and winning now for a franchise on its way upward following a tumultuous two decades of mediocrity. For Washington, owners of a young, talented defense already considered one of the league’s elite, the time is now for Rivera to get it right and Heinicke might be the answer.

Written By:

Ryan Fowler

Staff Writer

Feature Writer for The Draft Network. Former Staff Writer for the Washington Football Team. Multiple years of coverage within the NFL and NBA.