For the first time in his seven-year career, Taylor Heinicke is getting consistent first-team reps as a starting NFL quarterback. And after consecutive wins for the Washington Football Team, it looks as though those reps are starting to bear fruit, says Eric Bickel of The Sports Junkies.
"Mark Sanchez said something, and I tweeted about this," Bickel said Monday on 106.7 The Fan. "I thought it was very prescient at the time, but I didn't want to tweet about it during the game because I didn't want to jinx it. And that's how stupid I am — I believe in jinxes during games."
"But Sanchez said that he talked to Taylor or something," Bickel said, "and Taylor was kind of insinuating how, you know, this is the first time he's been a starter in, what, six years in the league or whatever? And he's getting reps after reps after reps after reps. He's getting first-team reps every week. He's never had this before! So, he's getting better!"
It's important to remember that the lion's share of first-team reps went to veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick in training camp, which came back to bite the coaching staff when Fitzpatrick went down with a potentially season-ending hip injury early in Washington's Week 1 loss to the Chargers.
In wins over Tom Brady's Buccaneers and the Panthers the past two weeks, Heinicke's thrown for 462 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions with a 127.0 passer rating.
"He's getting better! Every athlete gets better with reps," Bickel continued. "And he's getting consistent reps for the first time probably since — well for sure, 100 percent, since Old Dominion — and you're starting to see the kid improve. He's actually improving. I know he's 28, but experience-wise, he's about at the end of his rookie campaign. Experience-wise. So those reps are invaluable and I'm just excited to see if he can continue to improve. I just am."
One area Bickel would like to see Heinicke improve is in getting rid of the ball. The 28-year-old Washington passer has taken eight sacks in Washington's past two games, and 17 across the team's past four (dating back to its Week 7 loss to Green Bay). On the season, Heinicke's been sacked 22 times, which ranks tied for the eighth-most in the NFL.
"I still would like to see him tuck it a few more times," Bickel said. "He takes one or two sacks that are annoying to me. I'd like to see him throw it away. Just throw it away if you don't want to run! But overall, A+ effort [against Carolina on Sunday]. He's been spectacular the last two weeks."