When Taylor Heinicke takes the field on Sunday for the Washington Football Team against the Buffalo Bills, the 28-year-old quarterback will experience something he never has as a professional in the NFL: starting a game on the road.
Just three of Heinicke's 182 career pass attempts have come in opposing venues, all of which were relief appearances. Sunday is a different story. Heinicke is Washington's clear starter in Buffalo, which is one of the toughest places to play as a visitor in the NFL.
Speaking with local media on Wednesday, Washington offensive coordinator Scott Turner was asked how different it will be for his quarterback playing on the road for the first time. While Turner admitted there will be certain adjustments, he largely downplayed the challenges Heinicke might face away from home.
"Once the ball is snapped, then you just try to get them to go play," Turner said. "I don't want to make it too much for Taylor where he makes more of it than it is."
On Tuesday, Heinicke was asked if he anticipates this start being different than his previous one. He, too, also downplayed the idea of it.
"Not really," Heinicke said. "It's going to be loud. There's going to be some silent count stuff that we're working on this week. It's a good defense and we're excited for the opportunity and the challenge."
Ron Rivera's thoughts on the idea were plenty similar to his quarterback's: "I don't think it should be that big of a deal."
What Turner did hammer home about playing on the road, though, is just how important communication between him, Heinicke and the rest of the offense will be. With Bills Mafia having the reputation as one of the league's loudest fanbases, Washington is already prepping a silent count for when crowd noise begins to interfere.
"We prepare for it as far as working a silent count. We had crowd noise at practice today. A lot of that is just doing a great job with our communication," Turner said.
Additionally, Turner emphasized the importance of little on-field things Heinicke must do in order to be able to communicate with his teammates, such as maintaining solid eye contact and operating in an efficient manner.
"What I stress with him is make sure that you do a great job communicating, make sure you're looking at guys when you're talking to them so they can also read your lips as well as try to hear you," Turner said. "And then, we got to get out of the huddle and get to the line of scrimmage so we don't get stuck against the clock so they can time up the count that way also."
Ultimately, there's no doubt that playing on the road will impact Heinicke to a certain degree. It's a situation he's never experienced before. But, once the game does start, Turner expects his quarterback to go out there and continue to do what he's done since arriving in Washington that's made him successful.
"He's just got to go play," Turner said. "That's what he's done a great job of, and you've seen that. I think he'll do that, we'll get rolling early and it'll be just like any other game."