What should the Commanders do if Carson Wentz has a mediocre 2022 season?

By: Jeremy Trottier

This offseason we have seen various quarterbacks moving around in the NFL landscape: Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos, Deshaun Watson to the Cleveland Browns, Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts, and the move we will talk about about today, Carson Wentz to the Washington Commanders. The 2016 #2 overall pick has had a very tempestuous career so far, going from a potential MVP candidate in 2017, to tying Drew Lock for most interceptions in 2020. Last season he brought the Colts to within 1 game for a playoff spot, and then lost to the Jaguars, throwing an interception and only 185 yards, scoring only 1 total touchdown on the game. With this, what should the Commanders’ plan be for 2023 onwards if Wentz does not produce in 2022, and what should they look into.

2023 NFL Draft Options

The first option for the Commanders would be looking at getting a 2023 quarterback. With two projected stars at the top of the draft in C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young, as well as some other potential options to look into, they could have a shot at one. Provided that Wentz does mediocre or poor in 2022, this would likely leave the Commanders in the top 20 or 15 again, similar to this past season. Trading up is a possibility, considering they have all their picks aside from either their 2023 2nd or 3rd (2nd will be the Colts’ if Wentz plays 70% or more snaps, 3rd will be Colts’ if he plays less than 70% of snaps.) If they are sold on Young or Stroud after their 2022 campaigns, I have no issue believing they would move up for one or the other. On top of that, you have some other notable QBs to watch for, such as:

  • Spencer Rattler – South Carolina (provided he has a huge resurgence)
  • Anthony Richardson – Florida
  • Kedon Slovis – Pitt
  • Will Levis – Kentucky
  • Tyler Van Dyke – Miami
  • Caleb Williams – USC

Any of these options could be potential first round or second round talents based upon their 2022 play. Provided Stroud and Young both have another great season, the Commanders could just sit at whatever pick they may have and take one of the remaining options if they want to go that direction. Regardless, the draft is definitely a viable option for 2023.

2023 NFL Free Agency

Next up, we have the option of free agency, and potentially signing a quarterback if they choose to go this direction. There is a pretty good list of QBs going through the 2023 FA class, headlined by Baltimore Ravens star quarterback Lamar Jackson. The 2019 MVP has been one of the better players in the league for a few years now, and the Ravens have still not extended him as of yet, which could see him hit free agency if they end up not being able to agree on a contract. Other than Lamar, there is:

  • Jimmy Garoppolo
  • Baker Mayfield
  • Teddy Bridgewater
  • Drew Lock
  • Gardner Minshew
  • Daniel Jones
  • Sam Darnold

Are any of these options better than Wentz would be the real question. Based on age, you have DJ, Darnold, Minshew, Lock, and Mayfield who are all on the younger side of things, who provide at least some sort of potential if an offense can get a good scheme fit. Bridgewater and Jimmy G are both reliable short term options, who you are not necessarily going to win because of, but you can clear win with, as Jimmy brought the 49ers to the Superbowl less than 3 years ago, and with Bridgewater being solid in New Orleans and Denver. These options would essentially come down to which one the front office would want to take a shot on, or even pair with a 2023 rookie.

On-Roster options

Finally, we come to the potential options currently on the Commanders roster, which is basically a 50/50 shot. The main two you would look to in the absence of Wentz would be Taylor Heinicke, who started last year and was mediocre at best, and 2022 draftee Sam Howell. Howell entering 2021 was seen as one of the better QB options in the class, however after a relatively unproductive 2021 campaign, he fell down the boards quite a bit. While this was not specifically his fault, as he lost a lot of playmakers to the 2021 NFL Draft class, it still scared off potential suiters enough to have him be another QB to fall into the 3rd, which all in this class did aside from Kenny Pickett. Howell did break 3000 passing yards in every season at UNC however, with 24+ touchdowns each year (38 in 2019 and 30 in 2020) while never having double digit interceptions. Howell could be the long term option, we just have to wait and see how he progresses as a QB for Washington.

What’s Terry McLaurin’s dynasty outlook for 2022 and beyond?

Latest outlook of Terry McLaurin

By: Jake Rajala

The Washington gold, also known as Terry McLaurin, has been a quality wideout over the past two seasons. Here is a closer look at how productive Scary Terry has been for Ron Rivera over the past couple of years:

2020 (15 games): 134 targets, 87 receptions, 1,118 yards

2021 (17 games): 130 targets, 77 receptions, 1,053 yards

Terry has been a B NFL player and an A Washington player in his career. I believe the best is yet to come for the 26-year-old WR. Most importantly, I honestly expect Carson Wentz to bring the Commanders back to the post-season. As we stand here today, I feel like the Commanders, Saints, and Cardinals will be the three wild-card squads in next year’s NFC playoff gauntlet.

The entire Colts fan base may still want to virtually sacrifice Wentz for his Week 18 meltdown, but he did throw 27 passing touchdowns in his first season as a Colt. It’s impressive that he was a potent red-zone machine, while his best WR was Michael Pittman Jr. (88 targets, 1,082 yards, and 6 touchdowns in 2021) and the Colts second-leading WR in 2021 was Zach Pascal. I believe Wentz can definitely throw 32-38 touchdowns in Washington’s offensive attack in 2022. I expect Rivera and the Commanders to bring the 29-year-old back after this season, as well. In retrospect, they may have made a wise decision to trade for Wentz (meanwhile, the Panthers are arguably in QB hell).

Wentz will certainly be an upgrade over Taylor Heinicke, as Heinicke threw 20 passing touchdowns, 15 ints, and 3,419 passing attempts last season. If Heinicke can go toe to toe for 3/4 quarters against Brady in the playoffs, Wentz should feel confident that he can work magic with the talented Washington team in his new chapter. It should be noted that the Commanders don’t need him to be Joe Theisman.

The Washington fan base should feel delighted to hear that Ian Rapport stated on Wednesday morning that the Commanders want to keep him for the foreseeable future. I expect Wentz to lean on McLaurin’s ability deep down the field and in short routes for many years to come. I expect McLaurin to have career numbers in targets, receptions, and yards in 2022.

Scary Terry is currently the 16th best WR in dynasty PPR via Fantasy Pros at this point in time. I believe it’s time to buy McLaurin, as he should be looked at as a Top 12 WR in my opinion. Samuel can be a nice/improved chess piece in the “Percey Harvin role”, but I don’t expect him (9 targets in 5 games last season) to be a heavily involved WR2. It’s honestly the Wentz and Terry show moving forward.

Top QB options for the Washington Commanders

Matt Corral is the top QB option for the Washington Commanders

The Washington Commanders created special memories in 2021 with enormous wins over the Las Vegas Raiders, Seattle Seahawks, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Unfortunately, they didn’t impressive in the 2021 season as a whole, as they claimed a 7-10 record.

Ron Rivera chose quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to lead the squad, but their bearded QB suffered an injury in Week 1 and never returned to start in 2021. The unsung QB Taylor Heinicke replaced Fitzmagic and tried his best to never lose the keys as the starting QB moving forward. The Commanders were competitive under the undrafted QB, but he clearly didn’t prove to be a talented signal-caller.

The Washington QB threw a horrific amount of interceptions (15) and he only registered 20 passing touchdowns. Ron Rivera will surely look to bring in a QB that holds more potential than Heinicke and will likely earn the starting gig over Heinicke in the near future. So, which QBs will join the Commanders in 2022? Well, here are a few fiery field generals that would fit well.

Matt Corral

The Washington Commanders have a nice position in the 2022 draft (11th overall) to pick the Ole Miss QB. Matt Corral is clearly a favorite among NFL analysts to land with Washington. Sports Illustrated experts Eric Crocker and Ryan Tracy predict Washington to land Corral. Chad Reuter, who is an analyst for NFL.com, projects Corral to be selected by Washington, as well.

Corral unleashed a career-high 3,349 passing yards in 2021 and he was also a 2021 Conerly Trophy Winner. The Ole Miss QB can also clock a 4.65 40 yard dash time, so he’s a special all-around athlete. Corral undeniably holds the most potential out of the QBs available in free agency and the draft this offseason.

Marcus Mariota

The former Heisman winner Marcus Mariota has been arguably the best backup QB in the NFL over the past two seasons. Mariota is finally ready to prove his worth as an NFL starter again. Mariota is still young (27 years old) in QB years and he has a quality resume. He led the Titans to a winning record in three of his first four seasons in the NFL.

Mariota could be intrigued by joining Terry McLaurin and Antonio Gibson. If Heinicke can unveil 7 wins, Mariota and an ascending Chase Young-led defense can certainly unleash a winning season in 2022.

Trade for Taysom Hill

Taysom Hill might appear as a parody to a lot of fans, but he has a 6-2 record over the past two seasons in the league. He also is a more athletic and productive version of Taylor Heinicke.

The Saints also don’t have the Taysom Hill whisperer in Sean Payton anymore. I foresee the Saints riding with Jameis Winston, a rookie QB, or Russell Wilson moving forward. The Saints could opt to send the dual-threat QB to Washington. If Washington doesn’t reel in Mariota, Mitchell Trubisky, or Jameis Winston, it may be wise to acquire Hill to duke it out with a potential rookie QB.

Potential landing spots for Marcus Mariota in 2022

What is the best landing spot for Marcus Mariota?

The Las Vegas Raiders have been fortunate to have one of the best backup quarterbacks in the NFL over the past two seasons. Marcus Mariota, who was the backup quarterback breathing down Derek Carr’s neck in each training camp, will be a free agent in 2022 and will surely have an opportunity to chase another potential starting QB gig this offseason.

Mariota has rightfully been named the most underrated free-agent QB by Pro Football Focus. The former Oregon Duck is still 28 years old and he’s accumulated 13,437 passing yards, 1,574 rushing yards, 77 passing touchdowns, and 45 interceptions, in his career. He also led the Titans to a winning record in three of his four seasons as a starter. Mariota might have lost the starting gig to Ryan Tannehill, who recently led his team to the number one seed in the AFC, but he has plenty of athletic ability and experience to earn a starting opportunity in 2022.

There will be a lot of teams interested in Mariota due to his age, dual-threat ability, and positive character. The NFL witnessed Jameis Winston take a “Harvard education” with the Saints in 2020. The former Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB clearly came back sharper and more motivated with the Saints, as he led them to a 5-2 record. Mariota, who was once selected second overall in the 2015 draft, could follow in a similar path as Winston, who was picked first overall in the 2015 draft.

It’s widely enunciated that the former Heisman winner will have a golden opportunity to lead a team in 2022. The question is: which team will the Hawaii native lead? Well, here are likely destinations for Mariota.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers are going to look to add a QB this offseason to compete with Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins. Mike Tomlin has stated that he wants an elusive QB to join his squad. Mariota could be the dual-threat QB that Tomlin adheres to.

I also expect free agent Jameis Winston to re-sign with the New Orleans Saints and Tomlin to prefer Mariota over the likes of Mitchell Trubisky, Jacoby Brissett, and Andy Dalton. Mariota has to be fascinated by the combination of talent in Pittsburgh and the opportunity to yield the ability. It wouldn’t be long until Mariota seeks revenge on his old Titans squad in a pivotal matchup if he suited up in a black and yellow uniform.

Washington Commanders

Mariota has a good opportunity to earn the keys to the Washington offense and outduel Taylor Heinicke and a potential rookie for the starting gig. Heinicke recorded 20 passing touchdowns, but he also threw porous 15 interceptions. It’s clear that Washington is looking to add a QB who can push Heinicke for the starting gig this offseason.

Mariota could be thrilled about the idea of playing with Terry McLaurin, who notched 77 receptions, 1,053 yards, and five touchdowns with a mediocre QB situation last season. Washington also has Antonio Gibson (1,037 rushing yards, 7 rushing touchdowns) and Curtis Samuel to help him. Washington isn’t the same caliber of team as the Steelers, but they could aim to outbid the Steelers for his services.

San Francisco 49ers

The San Francisco 49ers will insert Trey Lance into the driver’s seat, but Lance is still an unproven commodity. It would be wise for Kyle Shanahan to add a quality backup QB, particularly a QB that has a similar skillet to Lance.

Shanny wouldn’t have to alter the scheme significantly if Mariota filled in for Lance (vice versa). Both QBs can run the read-option, QB draw, and make throw it well on the run. It’s well noted how both QBs can burn LBs in the open field, as both QBs can run the 40 yard dash in the 4.5s. Shanny was in love with Andy Dalton the last offseason and that’s a route that he could go, but he could be more interested in the younger, more explosive Mariota. The former Titans QB could be intrigued about the culture and opportunity in the Bay area, but he will have to accept that Lance will be harder to beat out than Mason Rudolph and Taylor Heinicke.

Houston Texans

The Houston Texans reeled in Tyrod Taylor as a free agent QB in 2021 and they could tempt Mariota to join them in 2022. Their 2021 rookie David Fales was exceptional for the Texans, especially given his situation. The Texans shipped away their best RB in Mark Ingram early in the season and they struggled to have playmakers outside of Brandin Cooks.

Still, the Texans could bring in a playmaker to join Cooks and then show Mariota a convincing offer. I wouldn’t expect Mariota to be filled of joy with the thought of joining the Texans, but they could offer add more talent and show him the money! They have roughly $18 million, according to “Over the Cap”, so they could afford to risk a big offer to him. Texans fans will have to hope he’s not the next “Brock Osweiler”.

Denver Broncos

The Denver Broncos have the inspirational Teddy Bridgewater, but he is a free agent in 2022. It’s far from certain if he will return in 2022. Bridgewater went 7-7 and nicely utilized Jerry Jeudy. Yet, the future is murky with Teddy B. He has never played a full season in the NFL and his ceiling isn’t scary. Bridgewater can take care of the football and be efficient, but the one-time Pro Bowler has never thrown more than 20 touchdowns in a season. He’s not going to go blow for blow with QBs like Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, and Joe Burrow.

The Broncos will really have to play sound football in a division with Patrick Mahomes if they expect to be a championship team with Bridgewater. They could be more enticed about the idea of Mariota and a rookie battling it out (I’m also assuming Drew Lock is traded). There is an option c for the Broncos, which is the Aaron Rodgers (and Davante Adams?) trade. The Broncos have an elite Von Miller-less defense, but they have one of the most mysterious QB outlooks in 2022.

Honorable mention:

New York Jets

The New York Jets may not seem like a fun short-term fit in Mariota’s mind, but they could be a logical fit for a few reasons. The Jets really need a QB, as they desperately acquired the washed-up, former Jets QB in 2021. Zach Wilson has high expectations, but he hasn’t proven to be consistent at the pro level and there’s reason to say he has minor injury concerns, too. The Jets pass protection needs to be upgraded, so they may have more trust in a veteran running the offense in the near future. Wilson was sacked a whopping 44 times in 13 games last season.

The Jets have the fourth most cap space in the league and they could display a lucrative deal that Mariota may not want to pass up. Similar to the Texans, the Jets could bring in a stud weapon early on, so Mariota is more fascinated about playing in the Big Apple. The former Titans QB would have his work cut out in the AFC East with Josh Allen, Mac “giddy” Jones, and Tua Tagovailoa, but I don’t expect Mariota to shy away from the big lights.

What is the ceiling for Taylor Heinicke?

Is Taylor Heinicke the future quarterback in Washington?

By: Adam Hulse (@AdamHulseSports)

Taylor Heinicke is a very interesting player to keep an eye on heading into the 2021 NFL season. According to head coach Ron Rivera, Washington will head into training camp with an open competition for the starting quarterback job between Heinicke, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kyle Allen, and Steven Montez. While Fitzpatrick is the likely front runner for the job in week one, Heinicke should be right on his heels with a real chance to win the starting role at some point. The fact that the organization just gave him a two year contract extension despite signing the 38 year old Fitzpatrick in free agency is a clear indicator that they believe in the potential of Heinicke.

Career Numbers

Heinicke is already 28 years old and has a very small sample size to go off of when looking at his career statistics. In the regular season across eight games played, he has completed 62.3 percent of his passes for 467 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. He has also demonstrated his athleticism with 9 carries for 55 rushing yards. His career 71.7 passer rating is underwhelming but hard to fairly judge given the lack of volume. He’s produced very mixed results to say the least.

The one game that really showed off his potential was the playoff game that he started against the eventual Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Bucs last year. Washington did lose the game but was very competitive in the contest, partially due to the best game of the young career of Heinicke. He completed 26 passes for 306 yards and a touchdown while also rushing for an additional 46 yards on six attempts and another touchdown. This performance is the main reason why he was given an extension to remain in Washington with aspirations of becoming the future starting quarterback.

Season Outlook

The biggest and most obvious question for Heinicke heading into the 2021 NFL season is if and when he will get his opportunity to play. That may depend more on the play of Fitzpatrick, if he does in fact get the starting job for week one of the season. Fitzpatrick chose Washington in free agency because he believes it is his best chance to be the starter on a contending team. He did not sign there to be a backup or a mentor to Heinicke. He believes he still has plenty left in the tank and his solid 2020 season backs that up.

Across nine games played in 2020, Fitzpatrick completed 68.5 percent of his passes for 2091 yards and 13 touchdowns while helping the Miami Dolphins compete for a spot in the playoffs. In addition to registering his highest completion percentage in a season, he also recorded his best ever total QBR at 76.8 and his 95.6 passer rating was the second best mark for a season in his long 16 year career. If he puts up a similar stat line or better to start the 2021 NFL season, it’s going to be hard for Heinicke to justifiably take over the job. Ironically, Fitzpatrick did lose his starting job last year to rookie Tua Tagovailoa despite his great efforts.

The Ceiling

If Fitzpatrick begins the season as the starter, he will be on a very short leash and head coach Ron Rivera could choose to switch to Heinicke at any time. In fact, there is still a decent chance that Heinicke could even win the QB competition in training camp and be named the week one starter any way. Washington is a team with hopes of returning to the playoffs this year so they will need solid quarterback play out of whoever the starter is.

In terms of a player comparison, the ceiling for Heinicke would be a Ryan Tannehill type. They both have similar skill sets with a comparable list of strengths and weaknesses. They can both be gunslingers at times who are willing to take risks in the passing game. They are both very athletic players who definitely prefer to pass first but can also beat a defense with their rushing abilities when necessary. Tannehill at this current stage of his career is a borderline top ten quarterback in the NFL, so if Heinicke can reach that level, the Washington organization is going to be very happy with their decision to give him a contract extension this past offseason.

Three quarterbacks who could be surprise Week 1 starters

Taylor Heinicke starting in 2021?

By: Chris Thomas

Now that the NFL is in the midst of their mandatory minicamps, quarterbacks competitions around the league have officially begun. Every year a couple of teams will have two (or three in rare cases) quarterbacks compete for the starting job. Quarterback competitions could be between two veterans, a veteran & a younger player, or an incumbent starter & a rookie. Every once in a while, a quarterback who many believe will lose the quarterback competition has a great camp and can be awarded the starting job.

There are a couple quarterbacks who may seem like long shots to win the starting quarterback job, but may end up being the Week One starter. Here are three quarterbacks who can surprise the league and be the Week One starter for their team.

Washington Football Team: Taylor Heinicke

The quarterback situation for the Washington Football team is not as open-and-shut as many believe it is. According to ESPN staff writer John Keim, Washington will still have a quarterback competition after signing Ryan Fitzpatrick to a one-year $10 million deal. The competition will be between Fitzpatrick, Kyle Allen, Taylor Heinicke, and Steven Montez.

After Fitzpatrick, the favorite to land the starting job is Taylor Heinicke. The former Old Dominion quarterback was back at school prepping for finals when Washington signed him to their practice squad. He was eventually promoted to the active roster and saw game action Week 16 against the Carolina Panthers. He completed 12 of his 19 passes for 137 yards and a touchdown in relief of Dwayne Haskins. Then when Alex Smith was ruled out for their playoff game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Heinicke was named the team’s starting quarterback. During that game, he completed 26 of his 44 passing attempts for 306 yards and one passing touchdown. On top of that, he had six rushing attempts for 46 yards and a rushing touchdown. The most impressive part of that game was the fact that the Heinicke-led Washington team was within eight points of taking down the eventual Super Bowl champions in the first round.

After coming into the year as the team’s fourth quarterback last season he is the favorite to be the team’s backup behind Fitzpatrick. However, it wouldn’t be shocking if Heinicke was named the Week 1 starter. After his performance in the playoffs, the team has rallied around Heinicke. He also showed that he is capable of taking control of an NFL offense and will lay it all on the line for his team. If Heinicke outshines Fitzpatrick in training camp, he could be Washington’s starter Week 1 against the Los Angeles Chargers.

Houston Texans: Davis Mills

The first draft selection of the Nick Caserio/David Culley era was former Stanford quarterback Davis Mills. Houston took Mills with the 67th overall pick in the third round. The selection was not a popular one because many thought Houston would have been better off taking a potential starter for another position of need with this selection over a project quarterback. But by selecting Mills in the first round the Texans administration feels that he could be their long-term starter and could even be their starter at this point this year. The Texans’ current quarterback room is made up of Mills, Tyrod Taylor, and Jeff Driskel. The belief is that former Pro Bowl quarterback Deshaun Watson will not play for the Houston Texans this season or ever again after his trade demands and his off-the-field concerns.

In a deep 2021 quarterback class Mills was considered a candidate to be the sixth quarterback drafted and the first one selected out of the first round. He ended up being the eighth quarterback drafted behind now-former Florida quarterback Kyle Trask who was taken by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 64th overall and former Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond who was taken by the Minnesota Vikings with the 66th overall pick. According to Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press, the Texans were prepared for select Mond with the 67th selection before Minnesota took him with the selection before.

Mills was a five-star recruit coming out of high school and the top quarterback coming out that year. However, Mills only had 11 career starts at Stanford. Mill redshirted his freshman year and only had two passing attempts his sophomore season. During his junior year, he completed 65.6% of his passes throwing for 1,960 yards, 11 touchdowns, and five interceptions in eight games. He took a slight leap forward during his senior year completing 66.2% of his passes throwing for 1,508 yards, seven touchdowns, and three interceptions. Mills also had three rushing touchdowns during his senior year.

It isn’t certain that Mills will become the Texans quarterback of the future. It is very possible that the team takes a quarterback in the first round next year and Mills becomes a high-end backup. However, after taking Mills with a high selection the Texans must give him starting reps at some point this season. He was taken as high as he was because of his upside. If Mills shows why he was such a highly regarded high school recruit and has flashes of the upside Houston saw in his tape during training camp, he could easily supplant Tyrod Taylor as the team’s starting quarterback next season as early as Week 1.

Philadelphia Eagles: Joe Flacco

After the 2020-21 NFL season it was believed that the Philadelphia Eagles would have a quarterback competition between Carson Wentz and 2020 Second Round pick Jalen Hurts to determine the team’s starter for this upcoming season. But instead, Philadelphia decided to trade Wentz to the Indianapolis Colts for a package of draft picks. Even with Wentz off of the roster new head coach Nick Sirianni still wants to have a quarterback competition to determine the starter for this upcoming season. The veterans that Hurts will have to compete with for the starting job are recently signed former 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens and former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco.

It has felt like a long time since Joe Flacco was considered a borderline Pro Bowl quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens. Eight years has passed since Flacco won the Super Bowl MVP winning Super Bowl XLVII against the San Fransisco 49ers. Since that point Flacco had been very average and then was replaced by Lamar Jackson late in the 2018-19 season after a neck injury.

He was traded to the Denver Broncos the following season for a fourth-round pick. He went 2-6 in eight games for the Broncos completing 65.3% of his passes and throwing for 1,822 yards, six touchdowns, and five interceptions. After injuring his neck Brandon Allen and 2019 second-round pick Drew Lock started the rest of the Broncos games that season.

Flacco was then released by Denver the next offseason and picked up by the New York Jets to be the backup to Sam Darnold. When Darnold missed four games due to a shoulder injury, Flacco played decently well as the starter. He completed 55.2% of his passes and throwing for 864 yards, six touchdowns, and three interceptions during that time.

After how Hurts played during his four starts last season it would be shocking if he was not the teams starting quarterback in year one. But if he has a rough camp and doesn’t show improvement in a new system with a healthy offense around him, Nick Sirianni may feel that the 13-year veteran may give them a better chance to win early on. It is important to note that Nick Sirianni has done a lot of more work with veteran pocket passers versus younger mobile quarterbacks like Hurts.

More backup QBs who can become starters later in the year

Minnesota Vikings: Kellen Mond

One of the biggest surprises of the 2021 NFL Draft was the Minnesota Vikings selecting Kellen Mond with the 66th selection in the third round. According to Mike Florio of ProFootball Talk, the Vikings were prepared to move up to the eighth overall selection to take Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields to eventually replace Kirk Cousins as the team’s starting quarterback. That didn’t work out and Fields ended up with division rival Chicago Bears. So their plan B was the take Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond in the third round to potentially fill that void. Similar to Fields, Mond is a mobile quarterback that may be rawer than Fields but has the upside to become an NFL starting quarterback.

In 2016 the Dallas Cowboys did not land Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch in the first round and settled for Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott in the fourth round. It is fair to say that their plan B worked out for them extremely well. That is what Minnesota could hope for in Mond. If the Minnesota Vikings struggle early in the 2021-22 season, they could turn to Mond and see if he could potentially be the team’s long-term future at quarterback.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Mason Rudolph/Dwayne Haskins

After the Pittsburgh Steelers crushing playoff loss to the Cleveland Browns the biggest question surrounding the team was how would the team be constructed and whether Ben Roethlisberger would return for another season. Roethlisberger decided to return for his 17th season after taking a pay cut. He is expected to be the team’s starter in Week 1, but at this point of his career, Roethlisberger may not be capable of competing at a high level for a 17 game regular season and potential postseason play. Pittsburgh may have to evaluate their options in the house and make the tough decision of replacing Roethlisberger midseason with one of the younger quarterbacks on their roster.

Their quarterback situation this season may be similar to what the Super Bowl 50 Champion Denver Broncos’ was during the 2015-16 season. 2021 Pro Football Hall of Famer Peyton Manning only played in ten games during his finals season in Denver and was relieved by Brock Osweiler midway towards the season. But Manning returned as the team’s starter right before the playoffs and had enough in the tank to win the Super Bowl. That should be the blueprint for the Pittsburgh hopes to achieve this season with their aging quarterback and the younger quarterbacks behind him on the depth chart.

The battle for the backup job in Pittsburgh is between Mason Rudolph and 2019 first round pick Dwayne Haskins. Both have underachieved throughout their careers, but feel that they could be the Steelers long term option at quarterback if Roethlisberger decides to retire after this season. In 2019 Rudolph went 5-3 as a starter, but only threw for 1,765 yards, 13 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. Last season Rudolph threw for 324 yards two touchdowns, and an interception in five games (only one start).

Haskins spent his first two seasons in the league in Washington and was thrown in as the starter about midway through the season when he clearly wasn’t ready yet. In his first season, he went 2-5 as a starter, threw for 1,365 yards, seven touchdowns, and seven interceptions. The following season new head coach Ron Rivera made it clear early on that Haskins would have to earn the starting job and showed signs of not believing in him long term. Due to the lack of depth in the quarterback room, Haskins was named the starter and started six games for Washington last season. He went 1-5 as a starter, threw for 1,439 yards, five touchdowns, and seven interceptions. After a photo leaked of Haskins breaking COVID-19 protocol and attending a party with strippers, he was stripped of captain and later released after a brutal start against Rivera’s former team the Carolina Panthers. This offseason he signed a futures contract with the Steelers.

An interesting transaction that occurred this offseason is that the Steelers did give Rudolph a one year extension after this season worth $5 million. That is a sign that they view him as the potential replacement for Roethlisberger long-term or is comfortable with him competing for the job with Haskins or a rookie next season. It would be hard to imagine one if not both of these quarterbacks getting a shot at being the teams starting quarterback for a couple games this season to preview what their quarterback situation could look like next season and beyond.

Could Washington use Taylor Heinicke like Taysom Hill?

Is Taylor Heinicke the next Taysom Hill?

By: Noah Nichols

When the Washington Football Team played the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the playoffs last season, nobody expected a close game.

Everyone predicted a blowout win for the Buccaneers. After all, the starting quarterback for Washington was a little-known player named Taylor Heinicke. Expectations were low for Washington as the game began and even lower for Heinicke.

Instead of a blowout loss, Washington was within eight points of tying up the game. Ultimately, they fell short, due to injuries and drops by receivers. However, the loss did not quite feel like a loss. Washington had seen a star rise that night.

Taylor Heinicke nearly led Washington to a victory against the heavily favored, more talented, Buccaneers that night. He threw for 306 yards and one touchdown. He also ran for 46 yards, and one of the most spectacular rushing touchdowns ever seen.

Heinicke had to push through a separated left ACL joint, that he played with throughout the entire night. He also was not helped out by his receivers, who had five drops that night. Thus, the reason for the hope that rose that night in Washington. Heinicke showed real potential.

Whether he starts as the quarterback next season for Washington or not is uncertain. Heinicke flashed potential that night. Perhaps he won’t be the starter. But as Ron River said, “He (Heinicke) has created an opportunity for himself.” Even if Heinicke is not the Starter, perhaps he could be like another quarterback in his conference, Taysom Hill.

What exactly would Heinicke do similarly to Hill? Hill is the more athletic player of the two, but Heinicke showed that he was faster than his combine 40-time of 4.7. Heinicke is arguably the better passer, being the only quarterback of the two to throw for over 300 yards in a game. And he did it against one of the best defenses in the NFL.

Heinicke could come in for packages like Hill does and be a threat to run or pass the ball. Washington has upgraded their receiver core, and defenses would have to respect the passing game. And the thing is, Washington has no clear number one quarterback.

So not only could Heinicke be brought in for packages, he potentially could win the starting job. And even if he did not win the starting job, Heinicke would be a great backup for whoever won the starting job. Defenses could not prepare for him, because they would be focused on planning for the starting quarterback.

If he were the starter, then the question is, can Heinicke be good enough to win, week in and week out? Perhaps. Look at what the New Orleans Saints did with Taysom Hill as the starter last season. The Saints were 3-1 with Hill. Sure the Saints have a great offense and defense, but the teams are not as far apart as you might think.

Washington might have the best defense in the NFL. They have a young, exciting receiver group led by Terry Mclaurin. And Antonio Gibson is a growing star player at running back. So Washington has all that it needs to surround Heinicke with talent.

It really is up in the air how well Heinicke would play as the starter, or even as the Taysom Hill role player. Heinicke could come in for special packages, and provide splash plays that way. But he would have to do it more with his arm than his legs. He just is not as good a runner as Hill. So if Heinicke were to come in and run the ball himself, most likely he would not provide splash plays the way Hill does on the ground.

However, Heinicke the Buccaneers game provided a glimpse of potential as a runner. Heinicke did well against the best linebacker tandem in the league. The question is, can he do it for a season, even as just a package player. There is no way to know the answer to that question. We just have not seen enough of Heinicke to know.

But Heinicke could come in to pass the ball, while still providing a little bit of a threat to run. He has shown that he can do it. However, there is no reason to bring Heinicke in to pass the ball in special packages, unless he is a serious threat to run the ball.

Sean Peyton does not bring Hill in to pass the ball, he has Hill pass the ball on rare occasions because he takes advantage of defenses playing the run. Unless Heinicke can offer potential as a runner, there is no reason for Heinicke to come into the game to pass the ball. 

So, Washington could bring Heinicke in a game to be the “Taysom Hill” of the offense. But unless Heinicke has grown as a runner, that probably won’t happen. The only thing that helps Heinicke in this regard is how bad Washington’s quarterback room is. They do not have a clear starter. So Heinicke could win the starting job, as a passer, and still provide some sort of threat as a runner.

Will Heinicke be the next Taysom Hill? No. And the only way he starts for Washington is if he outplays all the other quarterbacks on the roster, which is certainly possible. But even Ron Rivera did not name Heinicke as the starter. Otherwise, Heinicke is most likely a capable backup. But he won’t come into the game as a “Taysom Hill” type player unless he can become a threat on the ground. Otherwise, Washington has no reason to put Heinicke into a game.

Does Taylor Heinicke have a realistic chance to start?

Taylor Heinicke starting QB for WFT?

By: Tayyib Abu

The Washington Football Team opted to neglect the quarterback position in the draft. After Dwayne Haskins’ miserable tenure in Landover, Alex Smith took the reins at the end of the 2020 season. The veteran starter guided Washington to the playoffs before an injury ended his season.

Smith announced his retirement this offseason, and Washington replaced him with maverick Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Harvard alum is a serviceable starter with glorious highs and maddening lows.

The other quarterback of note on the depth chart is Taylor Heinicke. The Old Dominion student showed glimpses of raw talent; could he become QB1 in Washington? There is a strong chance of that happening.

How He Could Take the Starter’s Role

Heinicke’s nomadic NFL career started in 2015 as he signed for the Vikings as an undrafted free agent. After making the roster, an injury curtailed his first year in the league.

Stops in New England and Houston followed, but Heinicke couldn’t hold down a long-term spot with either of those organizations. It was in Carolina where Heinicke started his first NFL game in 2018.

That is where Heinicke forged a relationship with then Panthers head coach Ron Rivera and coordinator Norv Turner. Relationships go a long way in football, and after the collapse of the rebooted XFL, Rivera phoned Heinicke to give him one last shot.

Heinicke’s athletic traits make him an intriguing proposition. He is of the new age with his rushing skills and powerful throwing arm. In his game against Tampa, Heinicke carried six times for 46 yards and one touchdown. Heinicke is a blocky, hard-hitting runner.

That ability alone is a differentiator from Fitzpatrick. Heinicke’s rushing talent would also mesh well with Rivera and offensive coordinator Scott Turner.

That duo is from the Cam Newton, Carolina offence, and they own excellent knowledge in curating an offence around a quarterback that can use his legs.

Then there is Heinicke’s temperamental throwing skill. The arm is powerful, although there accuracy issues. Last year, Heinicke’s intended air yards was an impressive 13.4 yards, which dwarfs Fitzpatrick’s number of 7.3. Now the caveat is that Heinicke’s sample size was much smaller; nevertheless, he is willing to throw the ball. His passing chart against the Bucs underlined his desire to throw far and outside the numbers.

At the same time, Fitzpatrick is another player who will throw the ball far. Unfortunately, he is stuck in his error-making ways. Fitzpatrick has perfected imperfect quarterback play.
Conversely, Heinicke is so raw that he can still get coached.

After a dazzling display in last year’s playoff game, Heinicke is the raw prospect. No one knows what Washington holds with Heinicke; the unknown is exciting. Fitzpatrick is a known quantity, and he will start in Week 1.

Nevertheless, he is on a short leash. Washington certainly sees something in Heinicke and Rivera, and the staff know him well. At some point in a 17-game season, Fitzpatrick will morph into FitzTragic.

At that point, Taylor Heinicke could become QB1 in Landover. Heinicke must excel in training camp, come to work with the right attitude and stay prepared. That is how he can become the starter. The coaches will give him a long leash if he gets the chance. That is Heinicke’s ticket to becoming a certified starting quarterback in the NFL.

3 Reasons Why Ryan Fitzpatrick Will Start

The Legend of Fitzmagic Continues in Washington…

By: Adam Hulse (Twitter: @AdamHulseSports)

After two successful years with the Miami Dolphins, the man they call Fitzmagic hit the free agent market once again. He received interest from several different teams, but the 38 year old quarterback out of Harvard decided to sign a one year contract with the Washington Football Team. He did not join his now ninth different NFL team to just be a back up, but instead he has every intention of winning the job and being the starter for week one of the upcoming season. Here are three reasons why that is exactly what will happen.

Playing Better Than Ever

His game has showed no signs of declining in recent years. In fact, it could be argued that he is even better now than he ever was. The “prime” of his career and also where he spent the longest stretch of his career was with the Buffalo Bills. He started 53 total games for the Bills over 4 seasons between 2009 and 2012 where he accumulated over 11000 passing yards and threw 80 touchdowns. Over these last two years in Miami, he started 20 total games and threw for over 5500 yards and 33 touchdowns. Though a smaller sample size of course, his per game averages break down to being more productive as a Dolphin.

The one major negative to his gun slinger style of play is that he does throw a good amount of interceptions. In his defense, his interception rate has improved over time and, most importantly, it did not stop him from winning games in Miami last season. He was one of the main reasons why the Dolphins were so competitive last year and almost even made the playoffs. In addition to just the statistics, he is an excellent leader and a very well respected veteran in the locker room, as demonstrated by his efforts to lift a young and rebuilding team to far exceed their expectations last season.

Ready to Win Now

After an encouraging 2020 campaign where they won the NFC East division and made the playoffs, head coach Ron Rivera and the rest of the Washington organization believe this team is built to be a true contender this year. Their defense is already one of the best in the league, fueled by a dominant front seven and a fierce pass rush lead by Chase Young and Montez Sweat. It is a defense that is more than capable of keeping Washington in every game, and a shot to win whenever the offense performs along with them.

The offense has a very young and solid core, lead by a promising running back in Antonio Gibson, a rising star wide receiver in Terry McClaurin, a reliable tight end in Logan Thomas, and a newly acquired weapon in Curtis Samuel. The only thing missing here to complete the team, and it’s a very big missing thing, is the answer at quarterback. This is where Fitzmagic comes in. He was able to perform, and win, with less weapons on offense last year in Miami, so logic would say he should be even better in Washington this year, if he can win the starting job.

QB Competition

The quarterback position was basically a disaster for Washington last season. Alex Smith and Dwayne Haskins got the majority of playing time, but neither of them were particularly good and both threw more interceptions than they did touchdowns. The unimpressive performances resulted in both of them being released, leaving Kyle Allen and Taylor Heinicke as the other two remaining quarterbacks on the roster. Allen appears to be nothing more than a backup, while Heinicke is the big unknown in this equation. He has very little experience in his NFL career but he did start a playoff game last year where his dual threat talent was on display against a very tough Tampa Bay Bucs defense.

Heinicke and Fitzpatrick will both be fighting for the starting quarterback job this offseason. Though Heinicke is younger and more athletic, he does not have anything that compares to the proven leadership and ability to win that Fitzpatrick has. With Washington being a team that is looking to get back to the playoffs this year, and hopes of advancing even further than they did last year, Fitzpatrick has a clear edge to beat out Heinicke for the job as long he looks himself in camp, because they have a much better idea of what they are getting with the veteran.

It appears to be his job to lose, and Heinicke would have to do something really special in camp to take it from him. While that is still a possibility, it’s unlikely that Washington would have signed Fitzpatrick in the first place if they didn’t believe he would come in and win the job. He has said he wants to be on a team where he can be the starter, and it looks like he may have found that in Washington.

Top Five Quarterback Options for Washington

Will Taylor Heinicke Return?

By: Tayyib Abu (@tayyibabu1)

The quarterback carousel began in earnest over the weekend. Late on Saturday, news broke that Matthew Stafford was heading west to become a Los Angeles Ram. The first significant domino fell over the weekend. The Rams got their man at quarterback, Stafford and Sean Mcvay could form a devastating tag-team. The Rams fought off stiff competition from Carolina, Denver and Washington. Those teams are still searching for the answer; Washington, in particular, is looking for a franchise quarterback.

After winning the NFC Least in 2020, Washington is desperate to ram home their advantage. A ferocious defense is the platform that led Ron Rivera’s team to a division title. Several members of the defensive roster are on rookie deals; that means they are all under cap-control. This fierce group finished as the third-ranked passing defense in the NFL. That is a robust platform to build a winning team. After missing out on Stafford, it is more important than ever that Washington explores the quarterback position options.

Dak Prescott

With Stafford off the market, and Deshaun Watson’s status uncertain: Dak Prescott is the big prize on offer in the free-agent store’s quarterback section. Prescott was enjoying a superb season for the Cowboys before an injury ended his year. At 27-years-old Prescott is not an old quarterback, his 2020 form demonstrated that he was getting better. His QBR for the season was a career-high 78.6, Prescott also displayed an ability to air the ball out. The Cowboys could not run the ball; therefore, Prescott threw the ball over 40 times in several games; the fact that he kept them in those games is a testament to his talent.

Prescott ended the narrative that he is a safe passer or a better runner than passer. His next-gen passing chart shows that he was brilliant at throwing outside the numbers as well as deep downfield. Prescott will come with concerns; How is the rehab going? Will he be the same player? Those are legitimate questions; however, Washington is in no position to judge Prescott on that. Comeback Player of The Year-elect Alex Smith led Washington with a winning record in the games he started. With Antonio Gibson and Scary Terry Mcluarin; Washington possesses two, star offensive weapons that Prescott can lean on. A move like this is incredibly ambitious, bordering on audacious. Nonetheless, if the Football Team wants to upgrade their quarterback room, as well as weaken a division rival; it is a move they must consider.

Cam Newton

Once upon a time, Cam Newton won an MVP under Ron Rivera’s stewardship. Now Newton needs a team, and Rivera needs a quarterback. Newton was on a base salary of $1.5 million at New England in 2020; he will be an inexpensive pickup for Washington. Newton is incredibly difficult to judge based off one year in New England with no receivers. The New England offense is bereft of good talent at the skill positions. Newton’s career passing yards gained per attempt is 7.3; in 2020 for New England, it was 7.2. The arm is still performing at the same level. Newton will never be Aaron Rodgers; conversely, a player like Aaron Rodgers will never hit free agency.

Newton is still a competent passer if not an explosive passer. The beauty of Newton is that he offers such a unique proposition under center. While his rushing totals will never match what he did in his rookie year, Newton displayed solid rushing skill in New England. A man of his size is difficult to stop. Newton with Antonio Gibson in the backfield creates a dynamic duo that could run all over teams. If Washington committed to a run-game using play-action, they could get away with it as the defense is exceptional. A ball-control offense married to a rampant defense could be the key. Moreover, Ron Rivera and coordinator Scott Turner could revitalize Newton.

Andy Dalton

If Dak Prescott stays at Dallas, Andy Dalton could be in play for Washington. Dalton is not a backup quarterback; he can be a solid starter for most NFL teams. With his quick-fire release, accurate passing and veteran experience; Dalton can be a steady hand. Similar to Newton, the Red Rifle will be reasonably inexpensive for Washington to acquire. Dalton is an excellent short to intermediate route thrower; that is good news for Terry Mclaurin and Cam Sims. Both of those players excel after the catch. Washington could use plenty of in-breaking routes to get their wideouts into space.

Dalton is good working out of short dropbacks, that can be useful in Landover. With a top running-back in Antonio Gibson and that tremendous defensive unit; Dalton doesn’t need to be Superman, he just would need to look after the ball, make smart decisions and let the talent around him succeed. In his lengthy career, Dalton did all of that in Cincinnati. He owns that experience.

Alex Smith

The Comeback Player of The Year award should get renamed the Alex Smith award. The former San Francisco 49er went through hell after he suffered a horrific broken leg injury. After 17 surgeries, Smith finally stepped out onto a football field in 2020. With Dwayne Haskins causing himself more bother, and Kyle Allen getting hurt; Rivera called upon Smith to be Washington’s signal-caller. With Smith under center, Washington went 5-3 which catapulted them into contention in the NFC East. At pick 19, Washington is probably out of range to draft one of the top four quarterbacks. The next best available could be Mac Jones who could still be on the board when Washington is on the clock.

Jones is not a viable day one starter. Therefore, Washington can draft their future quarterback, while using Smith as the starter. His QBR of 78.5 confirms that his play was of a high level. Smith is not a deep-ball passer; he will dink and dunk his way to methodical drives. Washington can build around Gibson and Mclaurin on offense; while letting their defense go to work. Smith can be the veteran voice guiding a young quarterback in his development. Smith can do all of that while ensuring the on-field results stay consistent. In a division with three bad teams, that might be all Washington needs for 2021.

Taylor Heinicke

In one playoff game, Taylor Heinicke thrilled the NFL world. The Old Dominion Alum shone one wildcard weekend as he took it to Tampa Bay. Heinicke is a practice squad veteran; he’s been on four different teams’ practice squad. Critically, Heinicke crossed paths with Ron Rivera in Carolina. The Panthers claimed him off waivers in light of Cam Newton’s injury in 2018. After a lost stint in the XFL due to Covid, Heinicke went back to school to finish his engineering degree.

That was until Ron Rivera sounded the bat-signal for Heinicke. The engineering student came into play for Washington after Smith’s calf injury. Heinicke played like a wild man; he ran, threw good passes, some bad passes and provided unpredictability to Washington’s offense against Tampa. Heinicke demonstrated enough raw tools for Washington to bring him back and evaluate him during the off-season programme. It would be the wildcard move from Washington; however, he is called Riverboat Ron for a reason.

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