Ryan Fitzpatrick remains on track to be able to return to play within a few weeks, according to sources with knowledge of the situation, but he is far from assured of regaining his starting position as Washington's quarterback. Journeyman Taylor Heinicke, a late-season revelation in 2020, continues to impress coaches and teammates and has a legitimate shot to keep the job if he continues to perform.
Fitzpatrick, a key offseason signing by WFT, suffered a hip injury in the first game of the season and could be cleared to play by Week 7. The staff is eager to get him back, but that could prove to be more about depth than anything else. Some in the organization preferred Heinicke, who is spry and plays the game with a high-energy style. He was the better quarterback in the summer, and they believe he may be a better fit moving forward as well.
Head coach Ron Rivera will make the decision, but the support for Heinicke continues to grow among the men Rivera relies on to coach and run the team. The players continue to respond to him in a very positive manner on the field and off, and he continues to make big plays and keep the team in games while the much-hyped defense struggles.
"I can't speak for Ron, but it would be really hard to sit him down now," one team source said. Another noted the "spark" that Heinicke has brought to the huddle.
Fitzpatrick, who turns 39 next month, signed a one-year, $10M contract with WFT this offseason with the idea the veteran would stabilize a rocky quarterback situation and help the playoff team advance further in 2021. But injuries have been an issue for Fitzpatrick throughout his career -- as have turnovers -- and his age does carry some limitations as well.
Heinicke can be unorthodox, and he's had to pay his dues for what amounted to minor league football teams, but he appeared to find a home in Washington last season, at least in some capacity, helping their playoff push and showing well in the postseason. Heinicke ranks in the top 6 in the NFL in net yards passing above average, per NFL Next Gen Stats, and is completing nearly 70% of his passes with a QB rating of 105.9.
WFT has won two of his three starts, and his efforts last week had everything to do with their win over Atlanta.
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