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Heinicke Gets the Start and Howell is One Step Closer to Seeing the Field | Washington Commanders

By Adam Aniba

After a scintillating low scoring affair vs Chicago, Washington's 12-7 win came at a price. During a second half passing play, Carson Wentz's hand smacked off a defenders helmet, causing the QB to briefly wince in pain. Wentz was seen shaking his hand between plays and pulling at his finger as if it was jammed or dislocated. He would finish the game 12/22 for 99 passing yards for 0 TDs and 0 interceptions.

After further examination, it was reported that the former Eagles/Colts QB's injury was more serious than first believed.

It's unclear what the timeframe for recovery would be for Wentz at this point, but Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott's time frame was 6-8 weeks after his fractured thumb.

Although Carson's stats through 6 games (1,489 for 10 TDs & 6 interceptions) aren't spectacular, his offensive line has been arguably the worst in the league. Still, judging him on the sample size thus far, Washington shouldn't feel comfortable with commiting to Wentz as their franchise signal caller in '23.

Wentz has continued to miss wide open receivers and stares down his first read routinely, telegraphing his intentions has become a real issue. The investment in Wentz so far has been questionable.

A bright spot is the '23 draft pick for the Wentz trade likely stays at a 3rd now, as opposed to a 2nd round pick, since Wentz meeting the 70% playing time conditional mark seems unlikely.

It's clear based on former Washington QB Ryan Fitzpatrick's comments on TNF, Turner's system doesn't cater to a QB's skill set. Instead, Turner expects his QB to adapt accordingly, regardless of limitations and overall offensive line shortcomings. This can be a major issue for a veteran signal caller with limited athletic ability, considering how often Turner requires his QB's to drop back, often drawing up 7-step drops.

It also demonstrates how limited Turner is innovation wise. Not allowing for his quarterback's to call audibles at the line is also another issue that should cause concern.

Doc Walker was a guest on the 1st String Podcast and discussed how Washington OC Scott Turner's lack of innovation is a concern and what he believes is something that's missing from his offense.

"Pre snap movement is key, the league is shifting."

Many fans are split on backup signal caller Taylor Heinicke replacing Wentz, after throwing 22 TDs and 18 ints in '21 during his 15 starts. Cause for pause is warranted, even though Heinicke threw for 3886 yards and ran for 313 yards & 1 TD in '21 with a limited arsenal.

Many expected Heinicke to utilize his backyard style brand of football in '21, but it was clear Turner wanted him to be a pocket passer. Considering the desperation Turner is in to get the offense going and to get another win vs Green Bay, fans should expect a more run based offense and hopefully more of the RPO concepts we saw in Week 1.

Having Heinicke under center, likely cuts down the opportunities for deep down filled throws. Considering his lack of arm strength and deep ball accuracy, certain aspects of the playbook will be scaled back. Heinicke does provide more opportunities for scrambles when the pocket breaks downs though and likely will have some designed runs this week.

With their NFC East rivals thriving and the Giants (5-1) getting another improbable win vs the Ravens, the pressure is on for Washington to go on a run with 11 games remaining. Ron Rivera could turn to his rookie signal caller, sooner rather than later if the offense struggles under Heinicke.

Many believe it's in QB Sam Howell's best interest to not see the field this season, especially if a wildcard berth becomes out of reach. SImilar to Heinicke, Howell has displayed the ability to make plays with his legs and improvise. What separates the two is Howell's ability as passer, in addition to him becoming a dual threat later in his career.

At The Burgundy and Gold Report we were higher than some on Howell's ability as a potential franchise caliber QB and listed the below observations during the pre-draft scouting report. (FULL Feb '22 Howell Scouting Report)

  • Accurate passer with good arm strength

  • Developed into a legit dual threat in '21

  • As a former baseball player, understands throwing velocity and might throw the best touch pass in this draft class

  • Ability as a passer and football IQ make him scheme versatile (not limited to UNC's spread scheme)

  • Throws with impressive anticipation, especially vs zone coverage

  • Field general with an innate understanding of situational football (started as freshman)

As mentioned on Howell's scouting report, he's guilty at times of trying to play hero ball, but his ability to make plays on the move with pressure bearing down is notable.

This likely isn't the week that the rookie QB sees the field, unless an injury occurs, but it will be his first career regular season game that he's active.

Many Commanders fans want to see Howell in some regular season action, in order to determine if he's a legitimate plan for franchise QB of the future.

Although not under ideal circumstances, the chance for Howell to see the field as a starter this season, just got a lot closer to a reality.

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