Heinicke from Commanders starts at QB vs. Texans; Wentz’s status is uncertain


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 return to pitching, Rivera said, but the veteran has yet to be designated to return to practice. Rivera indicated that Wentz would have to practice before the team could consider him a starter or backup for a game.

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

Rivera has said whichever quarterback is chosen as a starter, he will take the role with the assurance that the team is committed to him. Largely.

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

Still, the coach nuanced his statement, knowing that a lot can change from week to week.

“Everything is match by match,” said Rivera. “I am not getting ahead of things. We’re going to focus on winning game by game.”

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Rivera said Wednesday that Wentz pitched onto the field with trainers — the rest of the team had a walk-through in the indoor bubble — but the coach gave no timetable for when the quarterback might be designated to return. Should Wentz not be able to serve as backup on Sunday, rookie Sam Howell will continue as the number 2 behind Heinicke.

Heinicke took over as the Commanders’ starter in Week 7 after Wentz broke a finger in the Week 6 victory over the Bears. The team placed Wentz on injured reserve, forcing him to miss at least four weeks, and Heinicke promptly led Washington to victories. about 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 came back to hand the Eagles their first loss of the season in Philadelphia on Monday night, a victory that lifted Washington to eighth in the NFC.

“You want to continue to see consistency in what he does and how he does things,” Rivera said of Heinicke. “You want to keep watching him take what’s there. Sometimes he tends to want to force it in places, but he’s done a good job, really, 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 a passer rating of 82.7.

“We have time,” Rivera said. “That’s what’s on our side. [Heinicke’s] good things done, and we’ll see how it plays out this week, but for me it’s part of making a decision. You have to be realistic, you have to look, and you have to see, and that’s what we did.”

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

Young has missed more than a year recovering from a knee injury he sustained in Week 10 last season. The commanders designated him to return from the list physically unable to perform on November 2, and they now have until November 23 to activate him. It is possible that they are waiting for the deadline before returning it.

Once he returns, Young will have a limited snap count and the team will monitor him closely, Rivera said.

“The most important thing, especially now, is that you want to get as close to the live action as possible, and you really can’t,” Rivera said. “So we have to try to figure out how to get as many good reps as possible in the next few days to get a good sense of where he stands.”

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