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Rivera: Washington Has Pieces in Place

Antonio Gibson and Terry McLaurin are part of the future; Taylor Heinicke's status uncertain

Asked in the aftermath of Washington’s season-ending 22-7 win over the New York Giants about the pieces in place around quarterback, Ron Rivera shared a list of positives.

The Football Team coach commended the offensive line and receivers, especially Terry McLaurin. He feels good about the defense, noting the unit’s performance during a four-game winning streak that briefly thrust Washington into the playoff conversation.

But what about Taylor Heinicke?

That’s one for the just-started offseason, as the soon-to-be-renamed franchise decides where to go and what to do with football’s most important position.

Heinicke may have started his last game at quarterback for WFT. Is so, he goes out a winner. The stat line in the finale doesn’t scream long-term answer – 9 of 18 for 120 yards and no touchdowns.

Washington finished 7-10 for its fifth consecutive losing season. There was an NFC East title and playoff berth last year, albeit with a 7-9 record.

But this season was a definite step back.

“This was a little disappointing just because we had a tough stretch and we couldn’t make hay during that tough stretch, because if we had we could be waiting to see what happens later on today,” Rivera said, referring to the final playoff spots still available.

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“That’s unfortunate. The best thing about it, though, is the way the guys rallied around each other, came out and played for one another, and really helped to set the tempo and the tone going into the offseason and going into next season.”

Getting back to the postseason with Heinicke at the helm seems an iffy proposition at best. Whether it’s the draft, free agency or trade, upgrading behind center has to be at the top of Rivera’s wish list for next season.

Ryan Fitzpatrick was Washington's selected starter, of course, but he suffered a season-ending hip injury after throwing only six passes in the season opener.

Rivera heaped praise on Antonio Gibson, who ran for a career-high 146 yards and a touchdown in the finale. The second-year running back finished the season with 1,037 yards rushing, 294 yards receiving and 10 total touchdowns.

Gibson’s showing against the Giants embodies the hard-nosed nature Rivera wants to see in his club.

“That sets a really good tone and tempo for who we want to be as a football team going forward,” Rivera said. “To be able to run the ball and run it successfully throughout the season with Antonio is really good.”

Rivera went with his starters against New York despite the game being essentially meaningless. It gets back to laying a foundation for a team that has seen very little go its way in a long time.

“We played to win,” he said. “That was it. That will always be my approach. I’m not going to apologize for that.”