This off-season the Washington Football Team signed quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to a one-year, $10 million deal. Most expected the veteran Fitzpatrick to be the Week 1 starter over Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen. However, Fitzpatrick’s time as the starter came to a premature close following a Week 1 hip injury. While an official timeline isn’t available, most reports suggest he could miss up to eight weeks.
Fitzpatrick is not regarded as the long-term solution at the quarterback position for Washington. However, he is a veteran signal-caller that can serve as a “bridge” to a younger quarterback. Taylor Heinicke, who will make his first regular-season start against the New York Giants on Thursday Night Football could be the beneficiary of Fitzpatrick’s absence.
Taylor Heinicke Could Keep the Starting Job
In 2020, Washington started the season with a quarterback depth chart that included Dwayne Haskins, Kyle Allen, and Alex Smith. Washington released Haskins before the end of the season. An ankle injury cut Allen’s season short. Smith’s season ended with a calf injury.
Heinicke made his first start of the season in a playoff game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Under the bright lights of FedEx Field, Heinicke threw 306 yards and completed 59.1 percent of his passes. Heinicke showed the poise and toughness needed to be an NFL quarterback. This was evident when Washington re-signed Heinicke in the off-season. However, Heinicke was unable to secure the starting job during training camp.
Paving the Way
NFL history shows that an injury to a starting quarterback can pave the way for his replacement. In 1999, Trent Green’s injury paved the way for Kurt Warner. Warner eventually led the St. Louis Rams to a Super Bowl victory the same season. In 2001, Drew Bledsoe’s injury paved the way for Tom Brady. Like Warner, Brady led the New England Patriots to a Super Bowl victory the same season. Neither Green nor Bledsoe returned to their starting role following their injury.
Fitzpatrick’s injury could pave the way for Heinicke to cement his place as the starter in Washington. With the free agent quarterbacks Cam Newton and Robert Griffith III on the market, Washington signed quarterback Kyle Shurmur to the practice squad following Fitzpatrick’s injury.
This move shows that Washington is secure with the current talent in their quarterback room. Heinicke had a solid performance in the season opener in relief of Fitzpatrick, completing 73.33 percent of his passes. He also threw for a touchdown and had a passer rating of 119.3.
Heinicke will need to have another solid performance against the Giants to convince the coaching staff that he should be the starter. If Heinicke is successful against the Giants, then he will have his first test on the road against the Buffalo Bills who are looking to repeat as AFC East Champions.
Taylor Heinicke is enjoying himself. Shovel pass to McLaurin for a nice gain after a penalty pic.twitter.com/1XNuN8L3yd
— Mark Bullock (@MarkBullockNFL) September 12, 2021
With Fitzpatrick on the sideline, Washington will put the offense in the hands of Heinicke. Will Fitzpatrick’s injury be a bridge to Heinicke? If Heinicke performs like Warner and Brady did, then the rest will be history.
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