Rivera names Heinicke starting QB for finale vs. Giants
By STEPHEN WHYNO
AP Sports Writer
Taylor Heinicke is expected to get a 15th consecutive start at quarterback for Washington in the team's season finale at the New York Giants.
A week after broaching the possibility of playing Kyle Allen some in the final two games, coach Ron Rivera said Monday, "We'll start off with Taylor and then we'll go from there." Heinicke took every snap of Washington's 20-16 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles and threw an interception in the end zone in the final minute.
Of course, Rivera's plan does not rule out Allen seeing some action for 6-10 Washington, which is still trying to figure out a QB plan of the future.
Heinicke, in his first full NFL season at age 28, has thrown for 3,299 yards, 20 touchdowns and 15 interceptions after replacing injured veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick. Allen turns 26 in March and could be a viable option moving forward as a backup or a placeholder for a rookie.
"You just want to see him get out there and play with some consistency and some rhythm more than anything else," Rivera said of Allen. "We got a nice little glimpse of it when he came into the Dallas game and got a chance to see that. And, to me, he's a guy who he is very steady. He's a game manager. And when he gets his opportunities, we'll see how it goes."
Heinicke started strong against Philadelphia, completing 14 of his first 17 passes and evading pressure in ways that were reminiscent of his surprise playoff performance against Tampa Bay last season, and his victory against the Buccaneers in November. The interception to diving Eagles safety Rodney McLeod with 24 seconds left on what could have been a go-ahead scoring drive was Heinicke's sixth pick in the past five games.
Allen, familiar with Rivera and offensive coordinator Scott Turner from their time with Carolina, has appeared in two games this season and completed 12 of 19 passes for 120 yards and a TD.
Washington got off to a strong start against Philadelphia, scoring a touchdown on its opening possession and forcing the Eagles to turn over the ball on downs on their first series. The early success was enough to build leads of 10-0 and 16-7, and if the team can figure out how to replicate that kind of play later on, there's reason for optimism next season.
And more good news came Monday when Washington activated rookie right tackle Sam Cosmi and cornerback Darryl Roberts from the NFL's COVID-19/reserve list.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The second half has not been Washington's friend lately, and perhaps it's a result of the attrition through injuries and virus-related absences depleting the depth of the roster. Washington has been outscored 40-14 after halftime over the past three games.
"We're missing a lot of pieces," linebacker Cole Holcomb said. "I think the guys did a tremendous job of filling in those roles and being able to not have any drop-off in that aspect. ... We just gotta tighten some things up and make a little more plays."
Undrafted rookie running back Jaret Patterson had 12 carries for 57 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown run, against the Eagles. The former University at Buffalo star very well could be in the mix again next season after showing he could fill in for injured starter Antonio Gibson.
Rookie linebacker Jamin Davis got a season-low 13 defensive snaps. Rivera said the difference was the desire for a true middle linebacker to stop the run against the league's best rushing offense.
But Davis was Washington's first-round pick, taken 19th, and his adjustment to the NFL has been much slower than anticipated. While Holcomb looks like a staple of this defense for years to come, it remains to be seen if Davis will be - and if his future is in the middle or outside.
"That's something we got to really look at and see if it is better for him not to have the kind of pressure that the middle linebacker has," Rivera said. "I think he's a young guy that's got a lot to learn. I know the style of defense they played in college is different from things that we asked him to do, so there's a lot of learning that was involved in that."
Tight end Ricky Seals-Jones is in concussion protocol after injuring his neck in a scary sideline collision with a camera operator, who was OK. With Seals-Jones out, rookies John Bates and Sammis Reyes are expected to see more offensive snaps.
5 - consecutive losing seasons for Washington, including 7-9 in 2020 when the team won the weak NFC East.
Beat the Giants, probably. Rivera said Washington is going to play to win, and oddsmakers think that will happen. Washington is a 6+-point favorite on FanDuel Sportsbook.
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Updated January 3, 2022