ASHBURN, Va. — The Washington Commanders didn’t have to make a quarterback decision after all. With Carson Wentz still not practicing, Taylor Heinicke will remain the starter.
Washington coach Ron Rivera said while Wentz was cleared to start throwing, he has not yet been designated to return to practice. Because of that, Rivera said Heinicke will continue to start. Rivera hasn’t said who will start when Wentz is ready to practice and play.
Washington (5-5) has gone 3-1 with Heinicke starting at quarterback entering Sunday’s game at the Houston Texans.
“We have time,” Rivera said. “[Heinicke] has done some good things and we’ll see what happens this week. It’s not just about the individual as much as [how] it affects the team. Having this situation is a pretty good one; it’s a good problem to have.”
Wentz broke his right finger in a 12-7 victory over the Chicago Bears on Oct. 13 and was placed on injured reserve. There’s still a chance Wentz could be activated before Sunday and therefore serve as a backup to Heinicke. However, Rivera said even in that scenario he’d likely want Wentz to have practice time before making him active for a game.
Heinicke has posted a 47.2 quarterback rating in his four starts compared to Wentz’s 32.4 in six starts. Wentz also had to learn a new offense, having played in a different system his previous six seasons. It led to him holding the ball longer than usual at times behind shaky pass protection. He was sacked 23 times.
Washington’s offense is better in part because the run game has been a greater focal point and its tight end group has gotten healthier. Heinicke has thrown five touchdown passes to four interceptions, but he also has captured the locker room’s respect because of his style of play and underdog story — the former undrafted quarterback was out of football two years ago. Receiver Terry McLaurin said Heinicke plays with no fear.
For Heinicke, he said he’s not worried about having one more game to prove that he should continue as the starter.
“I don’t look at it that way,” Heinicke said. “Coach told me I was up this week, so I’m doing everything I can to prepare for Houston and try to get a win. The team is playing really well right now … I hope to keep this thing rolling and let’s see what happens.”