FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Carolina Panthers announced Wednesday that Cam Newton would not start this weekend against the Atlanta Falcons. Instead, backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke will get the start in place of the injured Newton.
So what do Falcons fans need to know about the quarterback the team will be facing on Sunday?
The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Heinicke was originally signed by the Minnesota Vikings as an undrafted free agent out of Old Dominion in 2015. After being released by the Vikings in September of 2017, Heinicke was briefly placed on and released from the New England Patriots' practice squad, and shortly thereafter signed with the Houston Texans. Heinicke made his NFL debut in a Week 16 game for the Texans, completing his lone pass for 10 yards and taking a 16-yard sack.
The Texans waived Heinicke this spring, and he was picked up by the Panthers. This season, Heinicke has been active for five games and played in four of them. Notably, every appearance for Heinicke this year has been in a Hail Mary situation.
In those situations, Heinicke has completed two of his four pass attempts for 46 yards. Heinicke played much more in the preseason for the Panthers this year, and he completed 67 percent of his passes for 323 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. His quarterback rating in the preseason was a 102.
"It was exciting when we got ready to play [the Panthers] the first time, so we had to watch a lot of preseason," Falcons defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel said. "You had an opportunity to see him some, and how much the offense was the same. His ability to get out of the pocket as well, he has a nice arm.
"This guy, he's mobile, but he's not Cam from that standpoint. He's more of a pocket passer, who can get out on bootlegs and things of that nature ... He has a nice arm. You watch him, his touch passes, ability to throw the out routes, the comebacks, things of that nature. Plays that you ask quarterbacks to make in this league."