Football Team

Heinicke to start vs. Giants as WFT 'going to play to win'

Football Team
Heinicke toss

The Washington Football Team's whirlwind of a season unofficially ended on Sunday afternoon, as the team was mathematically eliminated from postseason contention following its 20-16 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Yet, despite there being just one game left in the regular season -- a meaningless tilt in the Meadowlands against the lowly New York Giants where the outcome only impacts position in the 2022 NFL Draft -- head coach Ron Rivera made it clear his No. 1 priority for Sunday's game is to leave Metlife Stadium with a victory.

"We're going to play to win. To me, that's human nature," Rivera said via Zoom on Monday. "You should always play to win and that's going to be the approach."

Although Rivera made it clear that the main goal for the club's Week 18 contest is to win, he did say there are certain players he wants to see in action more. Rivera's hope is that Washington can jump out to an early lead, which would allow him to rotate more guys into the lineup than he otherwise would.

"We want to try and go out and set a tone early on and see what happens. But, at some point, understand that we'd like to see some guys," Rivera said. "If there are guys [the coaches] want to see specifically, make sure we map it out, go out and do it. You want to go out and win. You really do. You want to play to win. But you also want to play for the future. So, we're going to set ourselves up, try and set some sort of tone and tempo early on and we'll go from there."

 

By taking such an approach, Rivera will start Taylor Heinicke at quarterback on Sunday over backup Kyle Allen, who the head coach said just one week ago would "probably" would play during the final two games.

"We'll start off with Taylor, then we'll go from there," Rivera said.

Heinicke has been Washington's starter since Week 2 following an injury to Ryan Fitzpatrick. He's had some great moments, highlighted most by leading Washington on three game-winning drives. He's also had his low-lights and continues to make too many turnover-worthy plays, best emphasized by his 15 interceptions -- the second-most of any signal-caller in the league.

However, Heinicke is the only quarterback on Washington's roster that is currently under contract in 2022. He's proven that he's an excellent backup to have, but almost certainly is not and should not be the franchise guy moving forward. It's hardly a secret that quarterback is a position the club will need to address in the offseason.

Allen, who's been in Washington for every game of Rivera's tenure, is a restricted free agent at year's end. If he plays in Sunday's game, it'll be one last chance for him to prove to the coaching staff -- one that has brought him into two different organizations -- that he's worthy of retaining.

"You just want to see him get out there and play with some consistency and some rhythm more than anything else," Rivera said on Allen. "We got a nice little glimpse of it when he came into the Dallas game. To me, he's a guy who you know who he is. He's a game manager. When he gets his opportunities, we'll see how it goes."

Quarterback is not the only position Rivera wants to see multiple players in action. The head coach specifically highlighted tight end Sammis Reyes as someone who could see more playing time in the team's finale, along with other players who have spent most of the season on the sidelines.

"This game, there's going to be a point where there are some guys out there that we really want to watch," Rivera said.