Alex Smith's lingering calf injury will keep him from starting Saturday night's wild-card playoff game against the Buccaneers. As a result, Taylor Heinicke will start in Smith's place. Per ESPN's Adam Schefter, Smith will be inactive for Washington.
Smith missed two games after sustaining the injury during Washington's Week 14 win over the 49ers. He returned for last Sunday's must-win game against the Eagles. While he threw two interceptions, Smith also threw two touchdowns while going 22 of 32 through the air in Washington's 20-14 victory. The front-runner to win Comeback Player of the Year, Smith went 5-1 as the Football Team's starting quarterback this season.
Heinicke, a four-year veteran who made his season debut during Washington's Week 16 loss to the Panthers. Playing in relief of former Washington quarterback Dwayne Haskins, Heinicke went 12 of 19 for 137 yards with a touchdown. Heinicke has made up for his lack of in-game reps by having the chance to go against rookie pass rusher Chase Young in practice.
"I love Chase Young," Heinicke said of the rookie, who had 7.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries during the regular season. "When I look at all the teams I've been with, there's never been a rookie come in and take the reins like he has. ... He's going to be a problem in this league for a long time."
Washington's offense will be facing a Tampa Bay defense that finished eighth in the NFL in scoring, 21st in passing, first in rushing, 14th in third down efficiency and 20th in red zone efficiency. The Buccaneers' defense will be without linebacker Devin White, who is on the team's reserve/COVID-19 list.