After coming in after halftime last week, Taylor Heinicke will take over as the Falcons’ starting quarterback this week against the Vikings.
Head coach Arthur Smith didn’t go into details as to how long Heinicke would have the job or if Desmond Ridder could return as the starter, making it seem like a week-to-week situation in his press conference. But Heinicke said he’s feeling comfortable with Atlanta’s offense entering his first start with the club.
“Obviously it’s a new team, it’s a new offense I’ve been learning since OTAs and a bunch of new guys,” Heinicke said in his press conference. “It’s the cadence, different play actions and everything’s different, it’s all the hard work I’ve been doing since OTAs to feel comfortable with this to lead up to this moment.
“It’s definitely different from other times but I’m excited for the opportunity.”
Heinicke said he thinks Smith wants him to excel at “the basic things for a quarterback.”
“Protect the ball, get the first downs, we get down in the red zone score touchdowns,” Heinicke said. “Don’t take unnecessary sacks, get the ball out of your hand, let those playmakers do their thing. The good quarterbacks in the NFL they do that, they get the ball out of their hands, let their playmakers — that’s why they get paid right? Get the ball out of their hands and don’t get hit. It’s easy to say but let’s go out there and do it.”
Over the last two seasons with Washington, Heinicke compiled a 12-11-1 record as a starter, including 5-3-1 last year. Heinicke compared navigating his relationship with Ridder to what he dealt with last year with former Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz.
“It’s tough, it is, there’s no kind of beating around the bush there,” Heinicke said. “I’ve kind of went through this last year with Carson, and the difference between Carson and Desmond is Carson has been in the league for a long time, this is kind of new for Des.
“He’s handled it very well, he’s speaking up in meetings, he’s very engaged, he’s helping me out any way I can, so to see that from a young guy, that’s really cool, it just speaks to his character and stuff. We’re still pushing each other, he’s preparing like he’s going to play, God forbid he might, we’ll see. Des has done a great job today hearing the news and coming to work.”
Heinicke completed 12-of-21 passes last week for 175 yards with a touchdown. We’ll see if he can give the Falcons’ offense more of a boost when Atlanta plays Minnesota on Sunday.