Chase Young’s initial reaction to the Washington Football Team’s late-season quarterback addition encapsulated the feeling for many.
“I was like, ‘Dang, who is that little guy?’” he said.
Young soon found out about the little guy as Taylor Heinicke quickly assumed a large role, one he’s set to recapture Thursday night at FedEx Field against the New York Giants. He’ll be the starting quarterback, and there’s a chance he keeps the gig for some time.
That opportunity was akin to a shotgun marriage regardless of whether Heinicke ever played. Washington needed help at the sport’s most important position for a playoff game against Tom Brady and the eventual Super Bowl champion Buccaneers, and it turned to a player who’d only recently signed a contract.
For all Heinicke knew, that was a one-off opportunity, and so, as gamers do, he let it rip. Though Washington lost the wild-card-round game, the former Old Dominion star’s impressive showing earned respect from the masses, a two-year contract from Washington and eventually the primary backup role to Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Twenty-one minutes into a new season, Heinicke, 28, with two career NFL starts on his resume, is now leading Washington’s offense after Fitzpatrick injured his right hip. Going from a 16-year veteran to Heinicke should be scary, especially with Washington coming off a 20-16 home loss to the Chargers and the potential of falling to 0-2 before a Week 3 meeting at Buffalo. And yet …
“It’s really cool playing behind a guy like that, who just seems like he’s always ready for the moment,” wide receiver Terry McLaurin said on Tuesday after Washington’s lone practice this week. “It’s never too big for him. And you know, he’s gonna give us his best each and every week.”
“Taylor, he’s just a winner,” Young said. “You know, he’s just gonna go hard.”
Moxie alone won’t win games in the NFL, and Heinicke lost both of his career starts, including a 2018 appearance with the Panthers. But the 6-foot-1 quarterback who went undrafted in 2015 has shown the bright lights don’t faze him, and the key is for Washington to find comfort in his trademark spontaneity within offensive coordinator Scott Turner’s system.