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

Jun 2, 2021; Ashburn, VA, USA; Washington Football Team wide receiver Curtis Samuel (10) looks on during drills as part of an OTA at Inova Sports Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Washington WR Curtis Samuel placed on IR

Washington Football Team wide receiver Curtis Samuel is out for at least three weeks after landing on injured reserve with a groin injury suffered in practice this week.

Samuel signed a three-year, $34.5 million contract in free agency, reuniting with Ron Rivera, his former coach with the Carolina Panthers.

The 25-year-old was bothered by the injury for parts of the offseason and tweaked the muscle pull this week. He attempted to return to practice but was unable to continue.

Rookie Dyami Brown is expected to start opposite Terry McLaurin with Samuel on IR.

In four seasons with the Panthers, Samuel caught 185 passes for 2,087 yards and 14 touchdowns over 53 games (32 starts).

–Field Level Media

Jun 2, 2021; Ashburn, VA, USA; Washington Football Team wide receiver Curtis Samuel (10) looks on during drills as part of an OTA at Inova Sports Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

WFT’s Curtis Samuel (groin) sits out practice again

Washington Football Team wide receiver Curtis Samuel did not practice for the second straight day on Thursday due to a groin injury.

His inability to practice puts Samuel in jeopardy of sitting out the season opener against the visiting Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday. Coach Ron Rivera said Wednesday that Thursday’s practice would be a strong indicator of whether Samuel will play in Week 1.

Samuel, 25, has been nursing the injury during the offseason. He signed a three-year, $35 million contract in free agency, reuniting him with Rivera, his former coach with the Carolina Panthers.

In four seasons with the Panthers, Samuel caught 185 passes for 2,087 yards and 14 touchdowns over 53 games (32 starts). He added five rushing touchdowns in that span.

Samuel also missed time during training camp due to COVID-19.

Should Samuel be unable to play on Sunday, rookie Dyami Brown likely would draw into the starting lineup opposite Terry McLaurin.

–Field Level Media

Aug 22, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) throws on the field before the game San Francisco 49ers at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Herbert leads Chargers into Chase Young territory

Justin Herbert gets his first opportunity to show his impressive rookie season was not a fluke as the Los Angeles Chargers open the season on the road against the Washington Football Team on Sunday.

Selected No. 6 overall in the 2020 draft by the Chargers, the University of Oregon product showed poise, toughness and play-making ability last season. He completed 66.6 percent of his passes for 4,336 passing yards, with 31 touchdowns against 10 interceptions.

He’s going to need that toughness against reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year Chase Young, the No. 2 overall pick in the same draft.

Selected as the league’s Offensive Rookie of the Year, Herbert set league records for most passing touchdowns by a rookie quarterback (31), most total touchdowns by a rookie in league history (36), and most performances by a rookie quarterback with 300-plus passing yards (eight).

Herbert will be hard-pressed to duplicate those statistics in his sophomore campaign, but new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi is more focused on creating a dynamic offense that can help L.A. consistently win games.

“We’re going to utilize his big arm,” Lombardi said. “We’re keeping the defense on their heels, especially when a new personnel group comes in while you’re in the huddle. By the time they figure out who’s in the huddle, they’re trying to get their call in. We’ll already be breaking and then the ball snaps. It gives (opposing defenses) less time to think, the faster you can change personnel groups.”

Named the 17th head coach in franchise history in January, Brandon Staley will attempt to turn things around after a 7-9 campaign last season under Anthony Lynn, who was fired after four seasons. The Bolts won the last four games of the season.

The former defensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams, Staley looks to improve a Chargers’ defense that allowed 26.6 points a game last season, No. 23 in the NFL.

L.A.’s most significant injury is to right tackle Bryan Bulaga, who’s dealing with a groin issue. However, the Iowa product fully participated in practice on Wednesday, and Staley said he’s trending toward playing this weekend.

However, running back Austin Ekeler was a late addition to the injury report after not practicing on Wednesday due to a hamstring injury.

Sunday’s contest will mark the third time (1973, 2001) the Chargers and Washington have met in the NFL’s opening week.

Washington owns a 7-4 advantage in the all-time series over the Chargers. However, L.A. has won four of the last five games. Los Angeles won the last matchup, a 30-13 victory over Washington in a 2017 home win.

Entering his second season, Washington head coach Ron Rivera’s team is led by Young. The Ohio State product finished with 7.5 sacks and 42 combined tackles last season.

Along with Young, Washington has one of the most talented defensive lines in the league, a lineup that includes Montez Sweat, Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen, all first-round selections.

Washington held opponents to just 4.85 yards per play last season, No. 2 in the NFL.

The defending NFC East champs will look to repeat as division winners for the first time since 1984, and they will do so with a new quarterback at the helm in journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick.

“This is a huge deal,” Fitzpatrick, 38, said about making a start for his ninth NFL team. “It’s a huge honor to be one of the 32 guys that is leading a team into action on Sunday. To be a starting quarterback in the NFL is such a privilege. … This is not something I take for granted. It’s something I’ve worked very hard to do.”

Rivera will have to figure out if receiver Curtis Samuel can play this week. Samuel has a lingering groin issue. He tweaked the injury during individual work on Wednesday and had to leave practice.

“We’ll continue to monitor him and see how he is (Thursday),” Rivera told reporters.

–Field Level Media

Jun 2, 2021; Ashburn, VA, USA; Washington Football Team wide receiver Curtis Samuel (10) looks on during drills as part of an OTA at Inova Sports Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Curtis Samuel leaves practice after aggravating groin injury

Washington Football Team wide receiver Curtis Samuel hurt his groin while warming up before practice Wednesday and was listed by the team as a non-participant.

Now Samuel’s availability to make his team debut Sunday when Washington hosts the Los Angeles Chargers is in doubt.

It’s an injury the 25-year-old had been nursing during the offseason.

“He didn’t come out of Monday’s practice quite as well as we hoped,” coach Ron Rivera told reporters.

Washington signed Samuel to a three-year, $35 million contract in free agency, reuniting him with Rivera, his former coach with the Carolina Panthers.

In four seasons with the Panthers, Samuel caught 185 passes for 2,087 yards and 14 touchdowns over 53 games (32 starts). He added five rushing touchdowns in that span.

Samuel also missed time during training camp due to COVID-19.

–Field Level Media

Aug 28, 2021; Landover, Maryland, USA; Washington Football Team quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) on the field before the game against the Baltimore Ravens at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Washington tabs Ryan Fitzpatrick as starter, rules out Cam Newton

The Washington Football Team named Ryan Fitzpatrick as its starting quarterback and put an end to talk that Cam Newton would reunite with his longtime NFL coach.

Newton, who was released by the New England Patriots on Tuesday, spent nine seasons with current Washington head coach Ron Rivera in Carolina. The 32-year-old Newton was named the NFL MVP during the 2015 campaign with the Panthers.

Rivera acknowledged that Washington is set at the quarterback position.

“It did pop up on our radar, but just so you know, Ryan Fitzpatrick is our starting quarterback,” Rivera said. “So that’s where we are. We have three guys we like that all came to camp, did a nice job for us and we’re going to go forward with those guys.”

Taylor Heinicke will serve as the backup, while Kyle Allen is the team’s No. 3 quarterback.

Fitzpatrick, 38, began last season as the starter for the Miami Dolphins. However, rookie Tua Tagovailoa took over in the second half of the 2020 season and is viewed as the future of the franchise.

A seventh-round pick in 2005, Fitzpatrick has played for the then-St. Louis Rams, Cincinnati Bengals, Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans, Houston Texans, New York Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dolphins.

Fitzpatrick has 34,977 career passing yards and 223 touchdown passes with 169 interceptions. Last season, he went 4-3 as a starter, completing a career-high 68.5 percent of his passes for 2,091 yards with 13 TD passes and eight interceptions.

Newton, 32, completed 65.8 percent of his passes for 2,657 yards with eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He ran for 592 yards with 12 scores.

–Field Level Media

Aug 12, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; Washington Football Team running back Lamar Miller (36) celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown against the New England Patriots during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Washington releases RB Lamar Miller, activates WR Curtis Samuel

The Washington Football Team released veteran running back Lamar Miller and activated wide receiver Curtis Samuel on Sunday.

Miller, 30, rushed three times for 14 yards and caught three passes for 10 yards and a touchdown in Washington’s 22-13 preseason loss to the New England Patriots on Thursday.

He originally agreed to a one-year contract with Washington in March.

After missing the entire 2019 season with a torn left ACL, Miller spent time in 2020 with the New England Patriots, Chicago Bears and Washington. He made just one appearance in a game, however, recording two receptions for six yards while logging five snaps in the Bears’ 19-13 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Nov. 16.

Miller posted 1,000-yard seasons with the Miami Dolphins in 2014 and the Houston Texans in 2016. He made the Pro Bowl in 2018 after rushing for 973 yards and five touchdowns and catching 25 passes for 163 yards and one score in 14 games with Houston.

Selected in the fourth round by Miami in 2012, Miller has rushed for 5,864 yards and 32 touchdowns and caught 211 passes for 1,571 yards and eight TDs in 106 games (89 starts) with the Dolphins, Texans and Bears.

Samuel, who was activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list Monday, joined the team at practice Sunday after being activated from the active/physically unable to perform list.

Samuel, 25, has been nursing a groin injury. He signed a three-year, $34.5 million contract in March after playing his first four NFL seasons with the Carolina Panthers.

The 2017 second-round pick caught 77 passes for 851 yards and three scores in 15 games last season and has 185 catches for 2,087 yards and 14 touchdowns in 53 career games (32 starts).

Washington also released wide receiver Kelvin Harmon and cornerback Chris Miller on Sunday.

–Field Level Media