Quarterback Taylor Heinicke needs more Alex Smith in the game | WGN 720 radio

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Among the blows against Alex Smith in his final NFL season with Washington was his inability to stretch the field and a propensity to play it safe.

Enter Taylor Heinicke, the gunslinger who played with reckless abandon when he started in Smith’s place in the playoffs last season, and has picked up on that since the fall of Ryan Fitzpatrick. Heinicke showed his best and worst in Washington’s resounding loss to Buffalo who was much more defensive than him.

That’s not to say the 28-year-old quarterback has no room for improvement now that the starting position is his for the foreseeable future.

Heinicke threw for two touchdowns, ran for another and threw two costly interceptions against the Bills. He’s a long way from Smith in almost every way, but borrowing some of the best trends from the retired QB could be the key to Heinicke growing up with more NFL experience.

“I would love to see him do things more like a game manager,” coach Ron Rivera said on Monday. “Sometimes it’s really taking what is given to you. … We will live with the right decisions, the right decisions.

With Washington at 1-2 and a visit to the Atlanta Falcons looming, Rivera would like to see Heinicke make safer passes and let his teammates take the first downs, rather than waiting for a deep ball in the middle or making a ill- advised to throw on his body.

There is of course the delicate balance where Heinicke is Heinicke, like diving for the end zone pylon. Making those kind of all-out plays earned Heinicke respect among his teammates in an almost upset from Tom Brady and eventual Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the playoffs.

But that’s not winning or coming home, and Heinicke has to adjust to the situation of being the long-term guy for the first time since college.

“There are big plays to be made, but at the same time, there are bad plays to be made,” said Heinicke. “And I just have to eliminate them. “

WHAT WORKS

It doesn’t sound like much right now, but the passing game has potential. Heinicke developed a chemistry with top receiver Terry McLaurin and tight end Logan Thomas, and that can only grow over time.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

Basically, all in defense. The talented defensive line full of first-round picks from Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, Chase Young and Montez Sweat isn’t getting enough pressure, the linebackers are struggling and the secondary is going their separate ways.

The latest result was Josh Allen and the Bills who posted 481 yards of offense. No player is to blame.

“We have to play the schemes as they are designed,” Rivera said. “They’re set up a certain way and there’s a responsibility to that, and you have to do your job.”

STORE

Running back Antonio Gibson shone with a 73-yard touchdown against Buffalo. It was the kind of play that characterized Rivera’s hope that Heinicke could let other offensive weapons make a few plays.

STOCK DOWN

Linebacker Jon Bostic has been a mainstay of Washington’s defense, but has been beaten in a few games lately and is one of the many reasons the unit falls short of expectations.

INJURIES

Wide receiver Curtis Samuel is eligible to come out of the injured reserve this week. Rivera takes a wait-and-see approach after Samuel was put on IR to give him more time to heal a stubborn groin injury. Defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis is expected to resume training after missing the game against Buffalo with a knee injury.

KEY NUMBER

3 – Touchdowns on First Down The Washington defense has allowed three games. This is a point that must be emphasized, but “it is also that everything has to be better,” said Rivera.

NEXT STEPS

Find a way to mend the defense as Matt Ryan is always more than capable of exploiting weaknesses.

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