The Quarterback Position
For the first time in several seasons, the football team in Washington will enter training camp knowing who their quarterback will be (barring injury) in 2022. Earlier this year the team traded for Colts quarterback Carson Wentz, a move that has been met with both optimism and criticism.
On the good side of things, Carson Wentz’s contract will allow the Commanders to cut bait next year with no dead cap hit if things don’t work out. For a team that may have ended up not being able to sway another quarterback to sign via free agency, this was a win-win move. The bad side of course is Wentz’s cap hit for 2022, $28,294,119, which has already put some stress factors on the roster at a time when they’re trying to sign their best player and weapon, Terry McLaurin.
The amount of success Carson was able to have in 2021 at the quarterback position is debatable depending on who’s talking. On one hand, his teammates seemed to be just fine with his 27 touchdown passes and team leadership. On the other hand, Colts owner Jim Irsay was quite vocal about Wentz’s effort not being up to par stating that “bringing him in was an obvious mistake.”
No matter what you think, Carson Wentz is an upgrade over any of the quarterbacks that have come through Washington over the last several years. One could also make a pretty good argument that the Commanders current receiver group is better than any Carson has seen in his career.
After Ryan Fitzpatrick went down with what turned out to be a season-ending hip injury in his only game as a Washington Football starting quarterback, Taylor Heinicke stepped into the position. While Heinicke didn’t deserve a spot on the All-Pro team in 2021, he did do enough to win the backup position heading into training camp.
Taylor will likely hold onto that spot as his competition this summer will be comprised of two rookie quarterbacks who are not ready for the NFL game yet. Heading into what will be his third year in Washington, Heinicke has a leg up on the younger guys as he’s been knee-deep in that playbook since the beginning of last season.
Heinicke is a dink and dunk type of passer who relies a lot on his check-down routes and mobility but has some issues getting the ball downfield with the zip it often needs. The lack of throwing power is something Taylor’s been working on this offseason. Make no mistake about it, Taylor is itching for another chance but understands that Wentz is the starter and wants him to succeed.
“If you’re paying someone $30 million and you’re paying someone else $2 million, you’re playing this guy $30 million to play,” Heinicke said at mini-camp. “Carson’s a great quarterback and you see it through OTA’s and minicamp. I hope he goes out there and succeeds and again, my job is to back him up, hopefully, he’s on his deal, help him out with whatever way I can and if, for some reason, he goes down, I’m ready to go play.”
The young guy to keep an eye on in all this is Sam Howell. He was the best pure passer in this year’s draft but played in what most would deem as an ‘air-raid’ type of system at UNC, and needs time to adjust to the new system. It helps that Howell’s favorite target in college, Dyami Brown, was drafted by the Commanders in 2021. Those two won’t need any time to build confidence in each other as the video below clearly displays.
If Sam Howell would have come out a year earlier he would probably have been one of the first quarterbacks taken in last year’s draft. Truth is, all of Howell’s weapons left for the NFL, and the Tarheel quarterback felt he had more to prove in Chapel Hill. So he stayed another year, which turned out to be a mistake as his draft stock suffered.
The last rookie quarterback on the roster is SE Louisiana’s, Cole Kelley. Kelley spent two seasons in Arkansas before entering the transfer portal. Last year he put up over 5000 yards and 44 touchdown passes in Southland Conference play as a fifth-year senior.
While time on the active roster may not be much of an option for Kelley, the practice squad is built for guys like him. With any luck, it could prove to be a great starting spot for the 6-7 quarterback to get his feet underneath him.
Washington will be looking to the quarterback position to guide them in whatever direction they go during the 2022 season. Adding new weapons can only help if you can get them the ball.