QB Garrett Gilbert starts for Washington Football Team vs. Philadelphia Eagles

ByJohn Keim ESPN logo
Tuesday, December 21, 2021

The Washington Football Team is without its top two quarterbacks for Tuesday's road game against the Philadelphia Eagles, as starter Taylor Heinicke and backup Kyle Allen remain on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Washington instead startedGarrett Gilbert, who signed with the team Friday off New England's practice squad. Kyle Shurmur, a second-year player who has not appeared in an NFL game, is serving as the primary backup after being elevated from the practice squad.

Washington (6-7) and Philadelphia (6-7) trail the New Orleans Saints (7-7) and Minnesota Vikings (7-7) for the NFC's seventh and final playoff spot.

Gilbert had played in seven games, starting one, since entering the league as a sixth-round draft pick by the Rams in 2014. He did not make an active roster until three years later.

He has been with eight NFL teams and also with Orlando in the Alliance of American Football league.

Gilbert started one game for the Dallas Cowboys last season -- completing 21 of 38 passes for one touchdown with one interception in a 24-19 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. He appeared in one other game last season but did not attempt a pass.

Though Gilbert wasn't signed until Friday, his minimal game experience made the difference in the decision to start him over Shurmur, who has been with Washington since Sept. 13. Last season, Washington coach Ron Rivera faced a somewhat similar situation when Alex Smith was hurt late in the season. He could have made Steven Montez the primary backup to Dwayne Haskins; Montez had been on the practice squad all season. Rivera, however, opted for Heinicke, signed 12 days earlier, because he had game experience.

TheKansas City Chiefs signed Shurmur as an undrafted free agent in 2019; he spent 11 days on the Chiefs' active roster but was otherwise on their practice squad. He spent time on the Cincinnati Bengals' practice squad last season.

Heinicke had started every game since Week 1 starter Ryan Fitzpatrick was injured in the second quarter of the season opener. In 12 starts, Heinicke has thrown for 2,931 yards and 19 touchdowns with 12 interceptions. His Total QBR of 46.2 ranks 22nd among NFL quarterbacks.

Washington's offense also is without key players such as All-Pro guard Brandon Scherff (reserve/COVID-19 list) and running back J.D. McKissic (neck), who was placed on injured reserve Tuesday.

WFT's top tight end, Logan Thomas, is on injured reserve after tearing the ACL in his left knee.

Receiver Curtis Samuel, a key offseason pickup, is missing the game with a hamstring injury. He has not been a big contributor this season, having played in only five games and caught six passes for 27 yards.

Washington still has 16 players and seven assistant coaches on the reserve/COVID-19 list, though all three coordinators remain available. At one point, Washington had 23 players on the list, prompting the NFL to move the game from Sunday.

Heinicke was placed on the list four days ago; he would not have played had the game remained on Sunday.