Taylor Heinicke will be the starting quarterback for the Washington Commanders' Week 7 matchup against the Green Bay Packers, head coach Ron Rivera confirmed during his Tuesday press conference. Sam Howell will be the backup behind Heinicke.
The move comes after the team announced via social media that Carson Wentz fractured his finger during Washington's Thursday Night Football game against the Chicago Bears. The team went on to say in the statement that Wentz underwent successful surgery in Los Angeles by hand specialist Dr. Steven Shin at the Cedars-Sinai's Kerlan-Jobe Surgery Center.
Wentz will immediately begin rehab and is expected to make a full recovery.
Heinicke will take over under center while Wentz recovers, putting him back in the role that he had during the 2021 season after former quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick suffered a hip subluxation in Week 1 against the Los Angeles Chargers. Heinicke is 7-9 as a starter and has completed 64.6% of his passes for 3,886 yards and 22 touchdowns compared to 18 interceptions.
Most of Heinicke's meaningful contributions have come with the Commanders, starting as the team's "quarantine quarterback" during the 2020 season, and has the support of the fanbase for his gritty style and ability to elude pressure. On top of nearly leading the team to an upset win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2020 playoffs, Heinicke also delivered a last-second victory over the New York Giants during the team's Week 2 Thursday Night Football game in 2021 and a comeback win against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 4.
While Heinicke did know after the 2021 season that the Commanders were going after a quarterback in the offseason, which ended up being a trade for Wentz on the start of the new league year, his outlook did not change. He still wanted to train hard to be the best player possible.
"I just try to control what I can control," Heinicke said in June. "When you start reading all those things, that's when you get in your own head and stuff like that. I try to put all that away, do my own thing and get better from there."
There were moments in training camp where it was clear that the work paid off. Arm strength was one area he wanted to fix, so he trained with 3DQB's Adam Dedeaux, a well-known quarterback guru who has experience working with several players, in Los Angeles. The sessions included fine tuning mechanics like weight transfer, hip rotation and shoulder positioning.
"Going out to LA this year was huge for me. It opened my eyes to a lot of things I didn't even think of," Heinicke said. "It's kind of just the little things he pointed out that make a huge difference. I'm very happy I went out there."
Heinicke will return to the starting role against the Packers, a team that he and his father grew up watching. It was an emotional moment for Heinicke when Washington traveled to Green Bay last season. Washington was competitive at halftime, down 14-7, but five trips inside Packers territory, two of which were inside the 5-yard line, ended without points on the board. Washington fell to 2-5 with a 24-10 defeat.
Heinicke and Washington (2-4) have a chance to redeem themselves in the quarterback's second matchup with his childhood team. It is a chance to build on the momentum gained by last week's win over the Bears and put the Burgundy & Gold one game closer to .500.