The Washington Football Team could've stamped their ticket to the NFL playoffs by winning one of their previous two games, but failed to do so, in large part because of the absence of Alex Smith. The veteran quarterback missed the last two outings with a calf injury, which prompted head coach Ron Rivera to reinsert former first-round pick Dwayne Haskins as the starter -- a post he lost earlier this year when he was demoted to third string. Haskins again played poorly though, mixing in a , the removal of his captain's patch, and a reported consideration of his release by Washington, before ultimately being benched in the Week 16 loss the Carolina Panthers -- swapped for backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke.
Heinicke finished the game completing 12 of his 19 passes for 137 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions, his 102.3 passer rating simply another area in which he outplayed Haskins, and it's earned him the role of potential starter in the event Smith can't go in the regular season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles. As it stands, however, Washington is reportedly expecting Smith to be available for the win-and-get-in game -- per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network -- after having been ruled out as a gametime decision on Sunday.
Smith came close to taking the field against the Panthers, which bodes well for his status following another week of rest.
For Haskins, the decision to place him back at third string could be the long kiss goodnight. Having not impressed Rivera at any stretch in the coach's inaugural year in Washington, but instead consistently becoming a thorn in his side, the team may be ready to revisit their willingness to attempt to develop Haskins. Rivera apparently now has eyes for Heinicke, at least in that regard, a 27-year-old who found his way to Washington by way of the XFL, once an undrafted free agent of the Minnesota Vikings (2015) who's also spent time with the New England Patriots, Houston Texans and the aforementioned Panthers.
Once named CAA Offensive Player of the Year (2012) and FCS All-American (2011, 2012), it's been a long road for Heinicke to get to this point, and there will be no shortage of pressure on him should he be tasked with starting in Week 17. That is, of course, to be determined later in the week and potentially as late as 90 minutes ahead of kickoff, as Washington does it's best to get Smith back onto the field -- something they believe will happen