Taylor Heinicke will start at quarterback for the Washington Football Team in Saturday’s NFC wild card playoff game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Alex Smith (calf) will be inactive, the team announced.
Smith has been hobbled with a right calf strain since Week 14. He missed two games due to the injury before returning Week 17 to lead Washington to an NFC East-clinching win over the Philadelphia Eagles.
However, Smith’s lack of mobility was obvious to those who watched the game. The calf injury is on the same leg he broke and subsequently had 17 surgeries to repair and combat a life-threatening infection.
Washington signed Heinicke in December to their practice squad with the role of being the team’s “quarantine quarterback” in the wake of the Denver Broncos COVID-19 debacle. However, he was signed to the 53-man active roster following Smith’s calf injury. He was promoted to backup QB following the release of Dwayne Haskins.
Heinicke has familiarity with Washington’s offense. He spent the 2018 season with the Carolina Panthers under current Washington head coach Ron Rivera and offensive coordinator Scott Turner. That year Heinicke had his lone NFL start.
Still, Washington will face the hurdle of being without the more proven Alex Smith. Smith is 5-1 as the starter this season and 11-5 since being traded to Washington in 2018. Other Washington quarterbacks have a 6-26 record during the same span.