Sunday afternoon's matchup between the Washington Football Team and the Buffalo Bills just might be the most crucial start of Taylor Heinicke's career.
This game is a fork in the road for the 28-year-old quarterback. Is he just a journeyman having his moment in the sun, or could he be much more?
While last season’s playoff start was a more important game overall, the Week 3 bout with the Bills will be the first time Heinicke plays on the road in the National Football League. Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera sees it as another big test for his quarterback.
“It is important to see how he handles pretty much any situation more so than anything else,” Rivera said during his weekly Friday appearance on "The Kevin Sheehan Show" on The Team 980.
“At home, the game’s on the line and you gotta get us into field goal position, which he’s handled and he’s handled well. Down by a couple of scores and you gotta put points up on the board, he does. Start for us in the playoff game against the G.O.A.T., against Tom Brady, and he went toe-to-toe with the guy and gave us a chance to win. Yeah, those are all important, but now this is truly, like to your point, Kevin, his first opportunity to start on the road in a hostile environment. This, to me, will probably be the last final thing to look at and see if this guy can be able to say this guy really is an NFL dude.”
What does Rivera’s gut tell him about how Heinicke will handle Sunday?
“I think he’ll handle it well,” Rivera said. “You know how we react, how we handle it as a team that’s what I’m really curious and interested in.”
When asked about Heinicke’s future in the league, Rivera thinks he can stick around, based on his production so far in Washington. But what about a bonafide week in, week out NFL starting quarterback?
“I think he can be that kinda guy,” Rivera said. “Like I said, this week will be a real good indicator as to how far, what is his ceiling, what is he potentially capable of.”
However, when asked by Sheehan if that means Heinicke will be that guy for Washington moving forward, Rivera was coy with his response.
“Well, we’ll see. That’s why we play ‘em, Kevin, to find things out,” Rivera said.
Kickoff on Sunday is slated for 1 p.m. ET between the Bills and Washington at Highmark Stadium.
You can listen to Rivera's entire interview during "The Kevin Sheehan Show" below: