Although the Washington Football Team can lock up a spot in the NFL Playoffs with a win over the 4-10-1 Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, uncertainty abounds at the club’s quarterback position. Specifically, starter Alex Smith’s status continues to be up in the air as he attempts to recover from a strained calf.
As reported by NBC Sports’ JP Finlay via Twitter on Friday afternoon, Smith was officially listed as questionable to participate in Washington’s crucial Week 17 showdown.
Smith isn’t the only key player who may or may not be taking the field for the NFC East’s current standard-bearer. Standout wide receiver Terry McLaurin (ankle) and first-year phenom running back Antonio Gibson (toe) were also listed as questionable on the latest injury report.
However, Smith’s ability to return to the gridiron after missing back-to-back weeks could ultimately be the determining factor in the club’s ability to extend its campaign beyond the regular-season slate.
Entering the year, the former No. 1 overall pick and three-time Pro Bowl selection had been considered a long shot to even make his squad’s 53-man roster after suffering a compound leg fracture in November 2018. That injury eventually led to a life-threatening infection, 17 surgeries, a near-amputation and a grueling rehab process.
Nevertheless, he earned a spot and found himself thrust back into action when former first-round pick Dwayne Haskins failed to impress and his replacement, Kyle Allen, fractured his ankle. Over the ensuing weeks, he went 4-1 as a starter and propelled Washington back into the postseason mix.
The calf on his surgically-repaired leg began bothering him during a Week 14 contest against his former team, the San Francisco 49ers. And while head coach Ron Rivera and his staff had hoped that Smith could play in subsequent games, the unique situation with his past injury has led to an abundance of caution regarding his return. His absence was a key factor in Washington’s recent two-game skid.
As noted in a tweet by the NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, Smith aimed to ramp up his activity level at practice on Friday with the hope that he’ll be ready to play in Washington’s win-and-you’re-in season finale against Philly. Moreover, Rivera said that the signal-caller moved around and threw well throughout the session, per ESPN.
If Smith ultimately can’t go, though, Washington will be forced to play Taylor Heinicke — a 27-year-old journeyman who has thrown fewer than 100 career passes — at QB. Haskins was released by the team on Monday amid poor performance on the field and a flouting of the league’s COVID-19 safety protocols off of it.
Should Washington fail to defeat the Eagles this weekend, the winner of the Dallas Cowboys-New York Giants game will win the division.