Washington’s Taylor Heinicke benched for Carson Wenz, position to be reevaluated

Washington coach Ron Rivera benched Taylor Heinicke for Carson Wentz in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s loss to San Francisco, but Rivera said he’s not yet sure the move is permanent. Rivera said he will name a starting quarterback earlier in the week.

Wentz played the last two series for Washington in a 37-20 loss that dropped the Commanders to 7-7-1. They remain in seventh and final playoff spot.

Rivera said he would assess the situation, discuss it with his offensive coaches and then make a decision. Washington hosts Cleveland on Sunday (6-9).

Offensive coordinator Scott Turner said he won’t make a “reflexive decision” but will use the fourth quarter as an opportunity to evaluate Wentz’s game. Rivera also said he didn’t want to see the 49ers “tee off” at Heinicke.

“It was an opportunity for us to see where Carson is and he did a good job,” Rivera told reporters after the game. “We’re in a pretty good situation now.”

Wentz last played on October 13 when he broke his right ring finger in a 12-7 win over the Chicago Bears. He returned to the active matchdays squad last week and was close to coming into play in the second half.

Wentz completed 12 of 16 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown in two working series.

“We are all competitors. I’m not going to sugarcoat it, we all want to be out there,” Wentz said. “If we lose that in this position, we’re out very quickly. So it would mean a lot [to start] but that is beyond our control. We will both prepare and work our cocks off and nothing will change due to circumstances. Whatever happens, will happen.”

Heinicke said he’s used to being in this situation, always an underdog or on the verge of losing his job, especially in the NFL.

“I’ve heard things like this all my life,” Heinicke said. “I try not to pay attention to it. I control what I control and that goes out there and play as hard as I can and I feel like I’ve done that. If they have to put Carson in there, fine. I will come to the plant every day, work hard and do my best.”

Heinicke played one of his more efficient halves of the season in the first two quarters, completing eight of 11 passes for 89 yards and a touchdown. Another drive ended at the 1-yard line when Washington failed to convert a fourth hit. In the third quarter, he threw a second touchdown pass.

But in the fourth quarter, Heinicke lost a fumble deep at his own 11-yard line, resulting in a 49ers field goal. He was intercepted on the next possession, this time at the Commanders 25, resulting in a second field goal and a 27-14 deficit.

“I was pretty exhausted and the last two rides were turnovers, so I get it,” Heinicke said. “Carson did a good job.”

Rivera said Heinicke played “pretty well” in the first half and said it “would be tough to pin all the turnovers on him. Those weren’t his problems. There were some things we could have done better.”

Still, that was enough for Rivera to switch to Wentz. Washington’s offense had moved the ball during Heinicke’s starts — the Commanders were 13th in total yards in his first seven starts. However, they were 25th in the red zone and scoring and 27th on third downs.

Rivera was happy with Wentz’s game.

“He was good at what we were doing, standing up straight in the pocket and getting the ball out quick a couple of times and throwing some good balls,” Rivera said.

Washington traded two third-round draft picks to Indianapolis and traded second-round picks last April to acquire Wentz. He has a salary cap of $26.7 million in 2023 but no longer has guaranteed money, allowing Washington to cut him with no financial penalty. But the commanders want to find out whether he can be their man in the future or not.

When Wentz starts, he plays on an offensive that’s more run-heavy than in the first six games. The coaches are hoping for more success for Wentz.

“Our ability to run the ball takes a lot of the pressure off the quarterback,” Rivera said. “This is a different unit than the group he played with. There are some things that show what he can do when given the opportunity to stand tall in the bag.”

https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/35316957/washington-taylor-heinicke-benched-carson-wenz-position-re-evaluated Washington’s Taylor Heinicke benched for Carson Wenz, position to be reevaluated

Emma Bowman

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