Welcome Back, Taylor Heinicke

QB Gets Another Shot
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The Minnesota Vikings are set to unveil a new quarterback when Jaren Hall makes the start against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. He won’t be the only new starter, though, as Arthur Smith is going with former Vikings quarterback Taylor Heinicke in place of Desmond Ridder.

Welcome Back, Taylor Heinicke

After going undrafted in 2015, Taylor Heinicke signed with the Minnesota Vikings. He spent time on the practice squad and had some experience during the preseason, but never actually played in a game for Minnesota. Heinicke’s first game action came in 2017 with the Houston Texans, but it was in 2021 with the Washington Commanders that he really got his first opportunity.

Playing in 16 games during the 2021 season, 15 of which were starts, Heinicke saw his former employer for the first time last year. When the Minnesota Vikings went to Washington in November, Heinicke was under center for the Commanders. Washington wound up losing that game 20-17, but Heinicke had some success.

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Going up against Minnesota, Heinicke threw for 149 yards on 28 attempts. He recorded two touchdowns and was picked off once. The Vikings needed a late-game comeback to win that contest, and Greg Joseph kicked a field goal with 12 seconds left to give them the victory. It was in that contest that Akayleb Evans emerged defensively and made his presence felt.

This weekend in Atlanta couldn’t be less like that game. The Vikings will obviously be without the services of Kirk Cousins. Not having a veteran quarterback under center certainly makes any come-from-behind scenario much more difficult to envision. With Jaren Hall making his first start, plenty of pressure will be on Minnesota to hang in there on the road.

For Heinicke, he will see a significantly different Minnesota scheme. Although plenty of the defense remains the same, the way Brian Flores coaches them couldn’t be further from what Ed Donatell did with the group. Flores will send plenty of pressure at Heinicke, and even if it had been Desmond Ridder under center, Minnesota would have looked to keep the quarterback on their toes.

Tennessee Titans linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair (2) pressures Atlanta Falcons quarterback Taylor Heinicke (4) during the fourth quarter of their game at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023.

Coming off a road loss to the Titans, Heinicke will be taking over with a start following the benching of Ridder. The effectiveness of Atlanta’s offense as a whole hasn’t really been there this season, and beating Minnesota would arguably be their best win of the season. Heinicke will obviously be motivated to get his first victory against his former employer, but it shouldn’t be considered a walk in the park.

Even with Hall making his first career start, the Vikings come to town having won three straight, and they played a solid game against a good Kansas City Chiefs game in a loss prior to that. It’s not going to be easy for Minnesota to adjust to life without Cousins, but getting a lesser quarterback on the other side should present plenty of opportunities for the defense to make their mark.

Heinicke probably sees this game as a bigger deal than the Vikings, and while Hall will need to settle in early, Flores and his defense can go a long way toward bringing home a victory.

Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.