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Giants prepare for 'gunslinger' Taylor Heinicke in his first start for Washington

Taylor Heinicke of the Washington Football Team celebrates

Taylor Heinicke of the Washington Football Team celebrates his touchdown pass against the Los Angeles Chargers during the third quarter at FedExField on September 12, 2021. Credit: Getty Images/Patrick Smith

James Bradberry remembers the third-string quarterback from Old Dominion who used to fire the football all over the field while running the scout team offense during practices when he played in Carolina in 2018.

"He was a gunslinger," Bradberry said. "Willing to take chances, trusting his receivers… He came in and made plays."

On Thursday night, the cornerback will get to face that quarterback again. Only this time it won’t be in practice. Taylor Heinicke is now the starting quarterback for Washington with Ryan Fitzpatrick placed on injured reserve with a hip injury he suffered in Sunday’s opener. But Bradberry and the Giants expect he’ll be bringing the same style of play he had at the bottom of the Panthers’ depth chart to the game against them.

"The thing you talk about with Heinicke replacing Fitz, they both have a lot of similarities in terms of their competitiveness, how they play and think on their feet, how they improvise during a game or how they extend plays," Joe Judge said. "These guys are really true gamers, and I say gunslinger in a very complimentary way for these guys."

Heinicke isn’t a complete unknown. The Giants and the rest of the NFL watched him get his first career start in last season’s NFC wild-card game. He completed 26 of 44 passes for 306 yards and ran for a touchdown in a 31-23 loss to the eventual Super Bowl champ Bucs. He’ll make his first regular-season start Thursday.

"It’s something I've been dreaming about my whole life, being a starting quarterback in the NFL," Heinicke said. "And here we are."

Heinicke even got a chance to break down the post-practice huddle after Washington’s practice on Tuesday.

"Being the new starting guy, I felt I needed to get in front of the team more," he told reporters. "I said some words I probably shouldn’t say right now about the Giants."

Fighting words, no doubt. Gunslinger words.

NOTES & QUOTES: Judge left the window open for TE Evan Engram (calf) to play Thursday, though that remains unlikely. "I know he's been pushing," Judge said. "He had a real good day of rehab the other day, moving along. He's making a lot of jumps. We'll see where he is physically and reevaluate that probably [Wednesday] and we'll see if he can get ready for Thursday." … The Giants had a walk-through on Tuesday so their injury report was a projection, but it listed G Shane Lemieux (knee) as a non-participant for the second straight day. Lemieux injured his knee in training camp and started on Sunday but was replaced by Ben Bredeson. "I wouldn't say anybody's involvement or lack of involvement in practice [Tuesday] would have anything to do with playing on Thursday," Judge said.

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