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Washington cuts turnover-prone quarterback Dwayne Haskins

Stephen Whyno
Associated Press

Washington released quarterback Dwayne Haskins on Monday, hours after coach Ron Rivera said either Alex Smith or Taylor Heinicke will start the regular-season finale with the NFC East at stake.

Rivera is "optimistic" Smith will be ready to play at the Philadelphia Eagles after missing the past two games with a strained right calf. Haskins started those two games, both losses, is 1-5 this season and turned the ball over three times in a 20-13 defeat to Carolina on Sunday that saw him benched for Heinicke.

Dwayne Haskins

Rivera said he saw more out of Heinicke — who hadn't played in the NFL since 2018 — after replacing Haskins in the fourth quarter of that game. Haskins was 14 of 28 with two interceptions and a fumble, while Heinicke led a touchdown drive late against the Panthers, who were playing safe with a big lead.

Haskins was fined $40,000 and stripped of his captaincy last week after violating COVID-19 protocols for partying mask-less with several people after a loss to Seattle. It was his second protocol violation this season, and his performance against Carolina ended his time in Washington.

More: Sunday's NFL: Seahawks wrap up NFC West title with 20-9 win over Rams

The team is 4-1 with Smith as the starter this season. Rivera said his offense is more successful with the 36-year-old under center because he manages the game better and doesn't commit mistakes typical of younger players.

After blowing its first chance to win the division by losing to Carolina, Washington (6-9) just needs to beat the Eagles to get into the playoffs and host a wild-card round game. The game was moved to primetime Sunday.

"We're playing with house money and that's the best part of it," Rivera said. "No one expected us to be here."