Nov 29, 2021; Landover, Maryland, USA; Washington Football Team quarterback Taylor Heinicke (4) passes the ball against the Seattle Seahawks at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Washington activates QB Taylor Heinicke from COVID list

Taylor Heinicke was activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list and should return from a one-game absence in time to start for the Washington Football Team at Dallas on Sunday night.

The Cowboys (10-4) would clinch the NFC East division title with a win Sunday, and a ninth loss would all but seal the no-postseason fate in Washington.

It’s a make-or-break type of game for Washington coming off of a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles with journeyman Garrett Gilbert at the controls.

Heinicke, 28, has completed 66.5 percent of his passes for 2,931 yards with 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 13 games (12 starts) this season.

With Heinicke back at practice Thursday, Washington is still nowhere near full strength. Then again, neither is Dallas.

The Cowboys practiced Wednesday without multiple starters, none more important than left tackle Tyron Smith.

Dallas (10-4) has a three-game lead over the Philadelphia Eagles (7-7) in the division race. The Cowboys are one of five NFC teams with at least 10 wins, so playoff seeding is very much part of the equation over the final three weeks of the regular season.

“I mean we all pay attention to it, but I just think it’s a waste of time just to go back and forth on it,” Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said of analyzing different scenarios. “We’re at 10 wins, and we clearly understand what 11 wins gives us. We understand what the records are in front of us. We’ll watch it like everybody else.”

At 6-8, Washington’s playoff picture is not as clear as the Cowboys’ entering Week 16.

–Field Level Media

Dec 12, 2021; Landover, Maryland, USA;  Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera (M) looks on from the sidelines against the Dallas Cowboys at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Ron Rivera: Washington’s starting QB to depend on Tuesday testing

Washington Football Team coach Ron Rivera said Garrett Gilbert will start Tuesday night in Philadelphia unless one of the team’s top two quarterbacks can pass a COVID-19 test in time.

Appearing on his radio show on 106.7 The Fan, Rivera said Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen will be tested twice on Tuesday — once in the morning and again in the early afternoon. If one or the other tests negative, he could rush to join the team in Philadelphia to face the Eagles at 7 p.m. ET.

Washington (6-7) and Philadelphia (6-7) have until 4 p.m. ET to activate players from the reserve/COVID-19 list.

As of Tuesday morning, the Eagles had two players on the list and Washington had 17.

Gilbert, 30, has not appeared in a game this season. He made his NFL debut with Rivera’s Carolina Panthers in 2018 and made his only previous start last season for the Dallas Cowboys in a Week 9 loss to Pittsburgh, 24-19.

“Garrett played for us in Carolina,” Rivera said Tuesday. “He actually played in a couple of games. He has a lot of familiarity with what we do, so he came back and picked everything back up right away. Last year, if you watched the Cowboys-Pittsburgh game, he came in and played a heck of a game in a loss. They almost won. He’s a very steady quarterback. He has good arm strength, can make all the throws. So we’ve got good familiarity with him.”

Heinicke, 28, has passed for 2,931 yards with 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 13 games (12 starts) this season.

Allen, 25, completed 4 of 9 passes for 53 yards in the Week 14 loss to the Cowboys.

–Field Level Media

Sep 12, 2021; Landover, Maryland, USA; Washington Football Team quarterback Taylor Heinicke (4) attempts a pass against the Los Angeles Chargers during the second quarter at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Washington turns to QB Taylor Heinicke against Giants

Taylor Heinicke is about to get an extended run as an NFL starter for the first time.

The 28-year-old quarterback was elevated to starter because of Ryan Fitzpatrick’s hip injury in the season opener, so Heinicke will lead the Washington Football Team (0-1) into action against the New York Giants (0-1) on Thursday night at Landover, Md.

Fitzpatrick is forecast to miss up to eight weeks, which presents time for Heinicke to display his skills. Heinicke will be making his second career regular-season start, with Kyle Allen (1-3 in four starts for Washington in 2020) serving as the backup.

Washington coach Ron Rivera also had both Heinicke and Allen on his roster during his tenure with the Carolina Panthers but didn’t struggle to make the decision.

That could be due to Heinicke’s stellar playoff start last season, when he filled in for injured Alex Smith and passed for 306 yards and accounted for two touchdowns (one passing, one rushing). His efforts allowed Washington to scare the eventual Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers before falling 31-23 in an NFC wild-card game.

“I think our guys will rally around him,” Rivera said of Heinicke during a press conference this week. “He plays a little bit like his hair’s on fire and plays a little bit like a gunslinger.

“He understands what he has to do and how he has to do it. I’m excited to see what’s going to happen.”

Heinicke replaced Fitzpatrick during Washington’s 20-16 home loss to the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 1 and completed 11 of 15 passes for 122 yards and a touchdown while rushing three times for 17 yards.

Heinicke played college football at Old Dominion and passed for nearly 15,000 yards and 132 touchdowns as a four-year starter. Despite the big numbers, he went undrafted in 2015.

He spent time on the practice squads of the Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots and Houston Texans over the next three seasons and even completed one pass for the Texans in 2017.

He made his first career start in 2018 for the Panthers but was out of football last December when Washington added him to the practice squad. Then, he was needed for the team’s biggest game.

Heinicke certainly acted like a starter when he addressed the team after Tuesday’s practice.

“I went in there and said a couple of words that I probably shouldn’t say right now about these Giants,” Heinicke said. “Hopefully it got the guys fired up and ready to play for Thursday.”

New York looks to rebound after being whipped 27-13 by the visiting Denver Broncos in its season opener.

Star running back Saquon Barkley returned from an ACL injury that occurred in Week 2 of the 2020 season but had just 26 rushing yards on 10 carries. He also caught one pass for 1 yard.

Now Barkley faces a short week — tough for any running back, let alone one who just played for the first time since surgery on his right knee.

“I don’t think the schedule is ideal for coming back off a major knee injury to have two games back-to-back, but that’s what it is,” said Barkley, who was limited in practice on Tuesday. “That’s what’s in front of me and that’s the challenge I have to face.”

The Giants have defeated Washington five straight times, the last four with Daniel Jones as the starter.

The third-year pro passed for 267 yards and one score and also rushed for a touchdown against the Broncos. However, he also lost a fumble that led to a Denver field goal.

“Turnovers are always going to hurt you at any point in the game and they’re big plays,” said Jones, whose 30 fumbles and 18 fumbles lost are the most in the NFL since he entered the league in 2019. “We’ve got to do a good job of taking care of the ball.”

New York tight end Evan Engram (calf) is in danger of missing his second straight game.

–Field Level Media

Jan 3, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith (11) passes the ball against the Philadelphia Eagles during the third quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

WFT QB Alex Smith ‘sore’, Taylor Heinicke takes first-team reps

Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith watched practice without a helmet and is officially questionable for Saturday’s wild-card playoff game against the visiting Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Smith is “a little sore,” according to Washington head coach Ron Rivera.

Backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke practiced with the starters Thursday and would be the team’s quarterback if Smith can’t play.

Smith played on Sunday night against the Philadelphia Eagles but was visibly limited by a calf injury. Smith said Wednesday that he felt Thursday’s practice would be “telling” to his availability for Saturday night.

Washington gave Smith a rest day Tuesday and he was limited Wednesday.

“Wish we had an extra day just to be sure,” Rivera said Thursday. “We’ll see how he is (Friday) morning and go from there.”

Smith, wide receiver Terry McLaurin (ankle) and running back Antonio Gibson (toe) all are listed as questionable Thursday.

–Field Level Media