- The Washington Times - Monday, December 28, 2020

Dwayne Haskins has been demoted again. 

Coach Ron Rivera said Monday that Haskins will be in a backup role for Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles with a playoff berth on the line — even if Alex Smith (calf) is unable to start.  That means Taylor Heinicke has officially moved past Haskins on the depth chart.

Haskins, of course, was benched for Heinicke in the fourth quarter Sunday’s 20-13 loss to the Carolina Panthers. The 2019 first rounder was just 14 of 28 for 154 yards with two interceptions and a lost fumble.

The performance came after a tumultuous week for the 23-year-old, who was caught partying indoors without a mask and fined $40,000 for violating the league’s COVID-19 protocols. 

This is now the second time this season in which Haskins has been demoted to third string. Rivera originally benched Haskins following a Week 4 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in favor of Kyle Allen and Smith. 

“Sometimes you have to go through some hard knocks,” Rivera said. “Sometimes you have to reach rock bottom before you can dig your way back out of it. Sometimes a change helps.

“But with Dwayne, it’s, ‘What have you learned? What are you going to take from these experience that are going to help you grow and get better?’ That’s the big thing with him.”

Rivera said he hopes Haskins learns from his mistakes. But can that be in Washington? 

“Like I’ve always said, you watch his talent and you see the arm and that’s the thing that is his most redeeming quality as a quarterback,” Rivera said, “which is probably a very important thing.” 

Washington’s playoff hopes come down to Sunday, when the team can make the postseason with a win. Rivera said the team is optimistic that Smith can be healthy enough to play, noting he was “very close” to suiting up over the weekend.

On Sunday, Rivera was noncommittal about who would be the starter for Week 17 if Smith was still hurt.  But after reviewing the film, Rivera said Heinicke had done enough to stick with him. 

Rivera said Heinicke’s decision making factored into making the change on the depth chart. Heinicke threw for 137 yards and a touchdown in Sunday’s loss. 

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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