Football Team

How Heinicke acts in the huddle reminds Rivera of these QBs

Football Team

Ron Rivera will sometimes make a point of watching Taylor Heinicke as he gets into the center of Washington's huddle in a given practice or game, and that's when he sees it.

The way Heinicke communicates to his offensive teammates — both instructing them and instilling confidence in them — is something that Rivera finds "impressive," as he put it on Monday. And it's reminding the coach of a few other passers he's worked with in his long career.

"I watched Philip Rivers do it," Rivera, who once was the defensive coordinator for the Chargers, told reporters. "How he would talk and watch and look at everybody and make sure that as he's making the call, that guys that need to know specifically what he's saying, he's looking at."

Rivera then went on to bring up someone Heinicke recently worked with.

"Alex Smith did that last year," Rivera said.

Heinicke, Rivers and Smith are all their own kind of signal-caller with their own attributes, but they do overlap in some ways. None of the three would be labeled as having a seriously strong arm yet, as Rivera explained, they were (or in Heinicke's case, are) able to overcome that by emerging as likable leaders who can act as a distributor thanks to their knowledge and awareness.

To Rivera, that ability to smoothly run the operation from start to finish is huge for Heinicke. 

"That shows command as far as I'm concerned," he said. "I think it shows that: ‘Hey, I've got a feel for it and I got to make sure this guy knows. Hey, when you run that route, make sure you get a good release. Hey guys, up front, you gotta make sure that I can deliver this ball.’ That’s what you want is a guy that's going to be able to communicate those things to his guys as well."

 

A few of Heinicke's peers on offense mentioned noticing this quality from the journeyman last year, even in his very limited playing time. Now, because he's been the starter since Week 2 and has been in on all the practice and live reps, it's coming to the forefront even more.

"It’s a culmination of a lot of things but me personally, I feel like I’ve played better by just going out there and having fun," Heinicke said on Sunday after beating Carolina. "Being myself and letting the personality come out and I think that rubs off on some of the guys."

“I think that's important because again, you get a little bit of a rhythm going with the guys around you, get a little bit of rhythm and get an understanding and feel for it," Rivera said Monday. "And I think because he's had that opportunity, you know, we're seeing what he can develop into."

During another portion of Rivera's press conference, he acknowledged that the franchise will spend tons of time evaluating the rising class of college quarterbacks and potential targets on the free-agent market to acquire once this campaign concludes.

Yes, he did say that the in-house options would be reviewed as well, but even with Heinicke's recent hot streak, it seems like Washington is still preparing to search for a long-term solution at the position.

Should Heinicke maintain this level of performance, however, he'll be a factor for the organization once again in 2022. His pre-snap poise is leading to true post-snap production — and it might just be pushing Washington toward the postseason, too.