Jan 8, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder (4) throws a pass against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Arthur Smith: Desmond Ridder is Falcons QB1

What seemed to be implied and assumed in Atlanta has now been stated out loud and made official by Falcons head coach Arthur Smith — Desmond Ridder is the team’s QB1.

“The plan is to start Desmond,” Smith said Tuesday. “That’s our plan going forward right now.”

Smith made the proclamation from the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix.

The Falcons signed Taylor Heinicke to a two-year, $20 million deal earlier this month, but even he knew what his role would be — QB2.

“We’re very excited to have Taylor in the room, a guy with experience who has won games in this league,” Smith said. “The chemistry in the quarterback room is important, as we expect Desmond to take the next step. But we also have a guy who can go in and win you football games and be ready to play.”

Ridder, 23, went 2-2 as a rookie starter in 2022, taking over for Marcus Mariota, who opened the season as the starter. Ridder completed 63.5 percent of his passes for 708 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions after being selected in the third round of the 2022 draft out of Cincinnati.

“I thought he made significant improvement from each start,” Smith said. “We expect him to make another leap this offseason. There are always things you can work on, with lower body mechanics. He can get more comfortable – when you don’t change systems that helps, too. We expect significant growth from him.”

Heinicke, 29, started 24 games over the past two seasons and posted a 12-11-1 record as the replacement for Ryan Fitzpatrick and Carson Wentz in Washington.

The Falcons also have quarterbacks Logan Woodside and Feleipe Franks on the roster.

–Field Level Media

Dec 24, 2022; Santa Clara, California, USA;  Washington Commanders quarterback Taylor Heinicke (4) throws the football during the second quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Falcons outbid Commanders for QB Taylor Heinicke

Taylor Heinicke agreed to a two-year, $20 million contract with the Atlanta Falcons, who reportedly outbid the Washington Commanders.

NFL Network reported on Tuesday that the Commanders wanted to bring back Heinicke but he chose to sign with his hometown team. Heinicke played at Collins High School in Suwanee, Ga., near Atlanta.

Desmond Ridder started the final four games of his rookie season for the Falcons and is expected to enter training camp as the team’s starter. But Heinicke, who signed with Washington as an emergency quarterback during the COVID pandemic, has been down this road before.

Heinicke, 29, eventually started 24 total games over the past two seasons and posted a 12-11-1 record as the replacement starter for Ryan Fitzpatrick and Carson Wentz.

–Field Level Media

Oct 23, 2022; Landover, Maryland, USA; Washington Commanders quarterback Sam Howell (14) on the field before the game against the Green Bay Packers at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: QB Carson Wentz to sit, Commanders want look at rook Sam Howell

Rookie fifth-round pick Sam Howell appears set for an audition as the Washington Commanders continue to shuffle the deck at quarterback.

Multiple reports Wednesday indicate Carson Wentz, who started last week after Taylor Heinicke played in nine games while Wentz recovered from a broken bone in his hand, will be inactive for Week 18 when the Commanders welcome the Dallas Cowboys.

Heinicke and Howell are expected to share QB duties, per reports.

Howell last played in the preseason finale, taking every snap against the Baltimore Ravens, and has drawn high praise from head coach Ron Rivera.

“Well, he has a bright future in this league,” Rivera said in August. “He has a lot of growing to do. I know [offensive coordinator Scott Turner and quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese] will go through this with a fine-tooth comb and emphasize the things that he could’ve done better.”

Washington quarterbacks have combined for 23 touchdowns, 15 interceptions and have been sacked 45 times in 2022.

Wentz threw three interceptions and completed 16 of 28 passes for 143 yards in a loss to the Browns last week. Rivera picked Wentz for the start after weighing whether to stick with Heinicke, who had only one turnover and a combined passer rating of 105 in his previous three games.

The Commanders traded for Wentz after Heinicke led the team in passing in 2021 with 3,419 yards, 20 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.

Given the run of stopgap solutions, another spin on the QB carousel appears imminent for the Commanders, unless Howell proves a draft steal and nails down the job.

Alex Smith led Washington in passing yards and attempts in 2020. It was Case Keenum in 2019, Smith in 2018 and Kirk Cousins (2017, 2016).

–Field Level Media

Dec 24, 2022; Santa Clara, California, USA; Washington Commanders quarterback Taylor Heinicke (4) and quarterback Carson Wentz (11) run onto the field before the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Commanders mulling Week 17 QB1 decision

Washington Commanders coaches are reportedly meeting Monday to decide between Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke as the starting quarterback for Week 17.

The Commanders (7-7-1) completed a winless 0-2-1 December with a 37-20 defeat at San Francisco on Saturday, when Wentz relieved an ineffective Heinicke in the fourth quarter.

Head coach Ron Rivera and his staff will decide on a QB1 for Sunday’s game against the visiting Cleveland Browns (6-9) by Wednesday morning at the latest, per the report from Pro Football Talk.

Washington holds the final NFC playoff spot and controls its destiny with home games remaining against the Browns and the NFC East rival Dallas Cowboys on Jan. 8.

Heinicke completed 13 of 18 passes for 166 yards with two touchdowns, one interception and one fumble against the 49ers. Wentz was 12-of-16 passing for 123 yards with one touchdown.

Heinicke, 29, is 5-3-1 as the starter this season, completing 62.2 percent of his passes for 1,859 yards with 12 TDs and six picks.

Wentz, who turns 30 on Friday, is 2-4 as the starter, completing 62.9 percent of his throws for 1,612 yards with 11 scores and six interceptions.

–Field Level Media

Washington Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz (11) walks along the sideline Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022, during a game against the Indianapolis Colts at Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Commanders activate backup QB Carson Wentz from IR

The Washington Commanders activated Carson Wentz from injured reserve Monday to serve as Taylor Heinicke’s primary backup.

Wentz landed on IR on Oct. 22 and was designated to return to practice Nov. 23. He hasn’t played since sustaining a fractured ring finger on his right (throwing) hand in a Week 6 win at Chicago. The injury required surgery.

Heinicke has guided the Commanders to a 5-1-1 record since taking over and head coach Ron Rivera has said the plan is for Wentz to serve as QB2.

Washington (7-5-1) returns from a bye week to host NFC East rival New York Giants (7-5-1) this Sunday.

Wentz, 29, completed 62.1 percent of his passes for 1,489 yards with 10 touchdowns and six interceptions in six starts (2-4 record) this season.

Washington acquired Wentz in a March 9 trade with the Indianapolis Colts. The No. 2 overall pick in 2016, he has a 46-44-1 record as a starter with 150 TD passes for the Philadelphia Eagles (2016-20), Colts and Commanders.

Heinicke, 29, has completed 61.8 percent of his throws for 1,444 yards with nine touchdowns and five picks so far this season.

–Field Level Media

Aug 20, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Washington Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz (11) talks with quarterback Taylor Heinicke (4) on the sidelines against the Kansas City Chiefs during the second half at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Commanders not ready to make QB call

Commanders coach Ron Rivera plans to report back on the status of the starting quarterback job in Washington when a decision has been made.

Rivera said Tuesday he hasn’t gathered all of the medical information on Carson Wentz, who started the season as the QB1 in Washington until a fractured right ring finger sent him to injured reserve following a Week 6 win over the Chicago Bears.

Heinicke is 3-1 since Wentz went to the sideline with a 2-4 record and the Commanders looking like a team ready to dig into prospect evaluation for the 2023 NFL Draft. He capped the active run Monday night with a 32-21 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, who were previously unbeaten and among Super Bowl favorites.

Heinicke said Monday night he was prepared to do whatever Rivera needed him to do — start or help the Commanders move forward with Wentz.

“My role this year was to be backup to Carson and, if he went down, be ready to play, and I feel like I’ve done that,” Heinicke said. “I’m just going out there and trying to win games for this team. And if they want to put Carson back in, great. I’ll be the best backup I can be to him and help him in any way I can. But for me right now, I just go in there and try to do the best I can.”

The 29-year-old Heinicke has five touchdowns and four interceptions in 2023, piloting a run-first offense to wins over the Eagles, Colts and Packers in addition to a three-point loss to the other NFC favorite, Minnesota.

“The first thing I’m going to tell everybody is not to get ahead of ourselves — first we’ve got to return him from practice and make sure he’s cleared and ready to go,” Rivera said Tuesday.

Rivera said he would talk to the medical team, front office, coaching staff and quarterbacks before anyone outside of the facility was informed of the Commanders’ direction.

“You guys will be the last ones to get notified,” he said.

Wentz can return to practice Wednesday, but the Commanders then have 21 days to activate him.

Acquired by the Commanders from the Indianapolis Colts, Wentz had 10 touchdowns and six interceptions this season. He was sacked nine times in a 24-8 loss to the Eagles on Sept. 25.

–Field Level Media

Oct 13, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Washington Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz (11) looks to pass against the Chicago Bears during the first half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Commanders QB Carson Wentz (hand) out 4-6 weeks

Washington Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz is expected to miss 4 to 6 weeks after fracturing the ring finger of his throwing hand in last week’s win over the Chicago Bears, NFL Network reported Monday.

Wentz will have surgery later Monday, multiple reports said.

Wentz could land on injured reserve, which would sideline him for a minimum of four games.

Wentz is currently in Los Angeles meeting with a hand specialist, per the report.

Taylor Heinicke is Washington’s primary backup. The Commanders also have rookie Sam Howell on the active roster.

Wentz sustained the injury late in the first half of Thursday’s win when his hand hit Bears defensive lineman Justin Jones on his follow-through. He remained in the game and played the entirety of the contest.

Wentz finished 12-of-22 passing for 99 yards. He has 1,489 yards passing on the season with 10 touchdowns against six interceptions.

Heinicke went 7-8 as Washington’s starter in 2021. He completed 65 percent of his passes for 3,419 yards and 20 TDs against 15 INTs.

The Commanders (2-4) host the Green Bay Packers (3-3) this Sunday. The reported timeline for Wentz would mean he’d miss return games against each of his former teams — the Indianapolis Colts in Week 8 and the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 10.

–Field Level Media

Oct 13, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Washington Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz (11) looks to pass against the Chicago Bears during the first half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Commanders QB Carson Wentz has fractured finger

Washington Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz’s availability is in question after he sustained a fractured finger on his throwing hand in Thursday’s victory over the Chicago Bears, NFL Network reported Saturday.

Per the report, Wentz is headed to Los Angeles to see a hand specialist to assess the situation.

Wentz completed 12 of 22 passes for 99 yards without a touchdown or interception in Washington’s 12-7 win over Chicago on Thursday night.

Taylor Heinicke serves as the backup and rookie Sam Howell is the third-string quarterback for the Commanders (2-4), who return to action against the visiting Green Bay Packers on Oct. 23.

Wentz, 29, has thrown for 1,489 yards with 10 touchdowns and six interceptions in six games this season.

He has completed 62.6 percent of his passes with 150 touchdowns and 63 picks in 91 career games with the Eagles (2016-20), Indianapolis Colts (2021) and Commanders since being selected by Philadelphia with the second overall pick of the 2016 NFL Draft.

–Field Level Media

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