Commanders’ Heinicke to start at QB vs. Texans; Wentz’s status uncertain


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Taylor Heinicke will start for the Washington Commanders on Sunday when they face the Texans (1-7-1) in Houston, Coach Ron Rivera announced Wednesday.

Carson Wentz was cleared to start throwing again, Rivera said, but the veteran has yet to be designated to return to practice. Rivera indicated Wentz would need to practice before the team could consider him the starter or the backup for a game.

The determination for Sunday essentially delays, at least for a week, the bigger quarterback decision for Washington.

Rivera has said whichever quarterback is chosen as the starter going forward will assume the role with the assurance the team is committed to him. Mostly.

“I don’t want them looking over their shoulder,” Rivera said Tuesday. “I want them to understand this is the opportunity and this is where we’re going with it.”

Yet the coach qualified his statement, knowing much can change week-to-week.

“Everything’s one game at a time,” Rivera said. “I’m not getting ahead of ourselves. We’re going to focus in on winning one game at a time.”

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Rivera said Wednesday that Wentz threw on the field with trainers — the rest of the team had a walk-through in the indoor bubble — but the coach did not provide a timetable for when the quarterback could be designated to return. Should Wentz be unable to serve as the backup on Sunday, rookie Sam Howell will continue as the No. 2 behind Heinicke.

Heinicke took over as the Commanders’ starter in Week 7 after Wentz fractured a finger in the win over the Bears in Week 6. The team placed Wentz on injured reserve, requiring him to miss at least four weeks, and Heinicke promptly led Washington to wins over the Green Bay Packers at FedEx Field and the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The Commanders (5-5) narrowly lost to the Minnesota Vikings in Week 9 but bounced back to hand the Eagles their first loss of the season in Philadelphia on Monday night, a win that moved Washington into eighth place in the NFC.

“You want to continue to see the consistency in what he’s doing and how he’s doing things,” Rivera said of Heinicke. “You want to continue to see him take what’s there. At times, he does have a tendency to want to try to force it in certain places, but he’s done a good job, he really has, and the guys have rallied around him.”

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In four starts this season, Heinicke has completed nearly 62 percent of his passes for an average of 210 yards per game and an 82.7 passer rating.

“We have time,” Rivera said. “That’s the thing that’s on our side. [Heinicke’s] done some good things, and we’ll see how it happens this week, but to me, it’s part of having to make a decision. You got to be realistic, you got to watch, and you got to see, and that’s what we’ve been doing.”

Defensive end Chase Young’s return timetable also remains uncertain. Rivera said Young participated fully in the team’s indoor walk-through Wednesday, and the team will gauge his status based on how his body feels Thursday.

Young has missed more than a year to recover from a knee injury he suffered in Week 10 last season. The Commanders designated him to return from the physically unable to perform list Nov. 2, and they now have until Nov. 23 to activate him. It’s possible they wait until the deadline before bringing him back.

Once he does return, Young will be on a limited snap count, and the team will monitor him closely, Rivera said.

“The big part of it is, especially right now, is wanting to get as close as you can to live action, and you really can’t,” Rivera said. “So we have to try and figure out how he can get as many good reps in the next couple of days to get a good gauge of where he is at.”



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