The Washington Commanders announced that quarterback Carson Wentz underwent surgery to fix a broken finger in his throwing hand after the game against Chicago. He is expected to miss 4-6 weeks.
With QB1 out, the team has to make some adjustments. They had two backups already listed on the roster — Taylor Heinicke and Sam Powell. Washington also signed Jake Fromm from the practice squad on Oct. 18.
But how does this affect the long term? Is the QB depth for the Commanders as good as other teams around the league that have proven their backups can live up to expectations, like the Patriots’ Bailey Zappe or the Cowboys’ Cooper Rush? What does the future look like for this team and the picks they traded to acquire Wentz?
Let’s start with the immediate concern: Who gets the start in Week 7?
The Commanders chose Heinicke. Some fans want to see the rookie Howell get the nod for his first NFL game, but football is a week-to-week sport. The Commanders need to pick up a win to get off the bottom of the NFC East this week and worry about everything later. Due to the immediacy of the sport, Heinicke is the right choice, especially against Green Bay.
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Last season, Heinicke started for Washington at Lambeau Field and ultimately lost 24-10, but he showed fans a few of his assets in the pocket — the main one being his ability to run and stay poised. Heinicke can use his legs to exploit a Packers defense that is especially weak at defending on the run. He had a 38-yard run a year ago against Green Bay, which is just under half of Wentz’s run total all season thus far. In that game, Heinicke picked up 95 yards in that game alone, and had a pretty solid year in general last season before Wentz came along and got the starting gig.
Don’t forget about Powell, though. The fifth-round draft pick out of UNC led all QBs in the preseason this year, and in college broke countless records for both his program and for the entire ACC. He is listed as the backup in the game this week, which is the right move. If Powell is the real deal, he is the future of this franchise and needs the time to grow into a top-level QB. This doesn’t mean he isn’t going to get a snap all season, He will eventually see time, but the timing just isn’t right, currently.
And what about Jake Fromm? He joined the Commanders this season from the New York Giants, where he saw two starts and completed 27 of 60 passes. It is unlikely he will get in this week, or in the foreseeable future, but he has regular-season NFL experience. That could come in handy, and could ultimately give him the edge over Powell if Heinicke goes down in the future.
But there is something else that needs to be considered for the Commanders’ quarterback situation. When they traded for Wentz, Washington got him and a 2022 second-round pick. Indianapolis got a 2022 second-round pick and two 2023 third-round picks. One of those third-rounders is conditional, and becomes a second-round if Wentz plays more than 70 percent of games for Washington. Do they keep him out longer to ensure the Colts don’t get a free second-round pick?
Seventy percent of the games equates to 11 matchups. Wentz has already played in five games, and if he is out for the max estimate of six weeks, that brings the league to Week 13, and then he has only five more weeks of the regular season (Week 14 is a bye for the Commanders), putting him below the 11 game threshold. If he returns sooner, closer to the four-week mark, the pick is likely to transform into a second-rounder. It will be interesting to see what The Commanders do about this, or if it is even a thought.
But still, the Commanders will take it week-to-week. It’s Heinicke’s time for now, but it all could change over the course of the season. This week’s matchup will show the trajectory of the situation, and what the quarterback core will need to work on for the foreseeable future.