By Lewis Gould
Taylor Heinicke completed 9 of 15 passes for 86 yards as WFT opened its preseason with a 22-13 loss to the New England Patriots.
Veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, signed in the offseason to become the WFT’s likely starter, had a short night in his debut, playing just two series before coach Ron Rivera went to Heinicke. Fitzpatrick made the most of his limited work, going 5 of 8 for 58 yards. It included a 22-yard pass to Terry McLaurin on the second play of the game and a 24-yarder to tight end Logan Thomas, a former Virginia Tech quarterback, during Washington’s second series.
Heinicke led the visitors on a 12-play, 64-yard touchdown drive that helped them go ahead 7-6 at halftime. On third-and-10, he avoided a strong Patriots rush and found Jaret Patterson for an 11-yard completion to the 2. Soon after that, Peyton Barber capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run, and Dustin Hopkins hit the go-ahead PAT — though he missed both of his field-goal tries.
Heinicke is trying to build on the momentum he generated in keeping Washington competitive with eventual Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay in last year’s playoffs and then bulking up in the offseason.
All eyes were on the quarterback position for New England, with Cam Newton entering training camp looking to rebound from a disappointing 2020 campaign and cement his spot as the starter after the Patriots used a first-round draft pick on Mac Jones.
Coach Bill Belichick has said Newton is his starter, but Jones had the better preseason debut. The rookie from Alabama completed 13 of 19 passes for 87 yards in five series, spreading the ball around with confidence after he took over for Newton late in the first quarter.
Newton, who shared a field with Washington coach Ron Rivera for the first time since they were together in Carolina from 2011-2019, played the opening two series and finished 4 of 7 for 49 yards.
Newton has been the most consistent quarterback in Patriots camp thus far but looked indecisive at times as Washington’s defense applied pressure.
He started by going three-and out after misfiring on his first two throws. It included one pass batted away by defensive end Chase Young after he blew past left tackle Isaiah Wynn and hit Newton from behind as he released the ball.
After Washington’s Hopkins missed a 40-yard field goal, Newton got New England moving. Given much more time to operate in the pocket, he linked up with Jakobi Meyers on an 11-yarder, then found Jonnu Smith on a crossing route for 16 yards and James White for 17 yards along the sideline.