Following a hip injury to Ryan Fitzpatrick that has resulted in a trip to Injured Reserve, Taylor Heinicke is set to make his first regular-season start with the Washington Football Team on Thursday against the New York Giants.
And, although Heinicke began the season as Washington's QB2, Giants head coach Joe Judge is not preparing for the 28-year-old lightly.
"I've got a lot of respect for this guy as a player," Judge told reporters on Monday. "Seeing this guy out there on the field, he’s going to be a challenge for us."
While Judge made it clear that Fitzpatrick and Heinicke are not the same player, he believes that there are some similarities both quarterbacks share that will help the Giants prepare for Thursday night.
"I’d say with Heinicke, to me obviously, it’s not the same guy, but there’s a lot of the same characteristics," Judge said. "I think you can get a little of a gunslinger in both these guys and I don’t say that in an insulting way. I say that in a very complimentary way."
Although Thursday will be Heinicke's first regular-season start in a Washington uniform, it's far from his first appearance for the Burgundy and Gold. The former Old Dominion standout started Washington's NFC Wild Card game against Tampa Bay in January and nearly led the home side to an upset victory over the eventual Super Bowl champions.
This past Sunday, Heinicke was thrust into action again following Fitzpatrick's injury. He immediately provided a jolt to Washington's offense, but it ultimately wasn't enough to hold off the Los Angeles Chargers.
In both appearances with Washington, Heinicke showed his ability to improvise and make plays out of nothing, a trait that only the best quarterbacks are able to do on a weekly basis. Judge specifically mentioned that skill set when praising the Washington QB on Monday.
"He’s a guy that can go out there and can really function and operate and think outside the box, extend plays, be creative within the system," Judge said. "Obviously, he’s been very competitive in all the games he’s been in."
In 2020, with Alex Smith, Dwayne Haskins and Kyle Allen at QB, Washington's offense was one of the worst at throwing down the field. Much of the passing attack came on underneath throws and short-yardage routes.
When Heinicke took over in Washington's playoff game, he wasn't afraid to take shots down the field. Even on Sunday when he came on in relief of Fitzpatrick, Heinicke gave his wideouts multiple looks on potential big plays.
On Thursday, Judge is expecting Washington's new QB1 to continue taking chances down the field against the Giants secondary.
"He’s a competitor and he’s going to look for ways to extend plays and get the ball downfield to their receivers," Judge said.