Washington controls its destiny on Sunday night, and Alex Smith is trending toward being able to play against the Eagles.
Sunday night against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Washington Football Team simply needs to win to clinch the NFC East. Good news has come in that effort, as NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero have reported quarterback Alex Smith (right calf) practiced on Thursday.
Smith did not practice on Wednesday, so Pelissero’s initial report that he took snaps during walkthrough and stretched with the team at the start of practice Thursday was hopeful. But then Rapoport reported Smith took first-team reps during individual drills, which is a good sign for his chances to start on Sunday night.
Head coach Ron Rivera said Smith was close to suiting up last week against the Carolina Panthers. So it’s not too surprising he’s trending positively now, and it seems to be an issue of function/movement over soreness in his calf. How Smith’s calf responds on Friday after Thursday’s work will be a strong indicator of his status against the Eagles.
Ron Rivera says he's optimistic Alex Smith (calf strain) can start Sunday against the #Eagles, but the WFT won't really know until Smith gets on the practice field. It's about functionality, not soreness. @nflnetwork pic.twitter.com/dwiC519NaI
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) December 29, 2020
Alex Smith’s return is critical for Washington
In Smith’s five starts this season (Week 10-Week 14), Washington is 4-1. When anyone else (Dwayne Haskins, Kyle Allen) starts, they are 2-8. It’s not that Smith’s numbers have been outstanding, but he has avoided mistakes in bunches (three interceptions, no lost fumbles in his starts) and his steady veteran presence shouldn’t understated.
If Smith is unable to go Sunday night, Taylor Heinicke would get his second NFL start. Heinicke came in for the now-waived Haskins last week, and his other career start came late in 2018 with the Panthers. Between those two games, his last two regular season appearances, Heinicke has had 72 of his 77 career pass attempts.
Smith is already a shoo-in for NFL Comeback Player of the Year this year. Being on the field Sunday night, and guiding the Washington offense in a win to clinch the NFC East, would be icing on the cake.