Washington always has a camp hero, so who will it be in '21? originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Who will be the next Cam Sims, the second coming of Marko Mitchell or the successor to Mack Brown during the Washington Football Team's training camp in 2021, the out-of-nowhere name who captures the hearts of Burgundy and Gold supporters all over?
Below, Pete Hailey outlines three candidates — one obvious and two not-so-obvious choices.
Sure, it feels a little cheap to put Heinicke on this list (one that's typically reserved for mostly-unknown guys) when he already had his breakout performance in the playoffs. It's almost like telling someone right now that the chicken sandwich at Popeye's is fantastic, nearly two years after it first became a thing.
However, Heinicke's still only taken the field nine times in the NFL, and when it comes to the race for the squad's starting quarterback job, he will very much be trailing Ryan Fitzpatrick at the beginning of camp. That gives him the all-important underdog label, which is key when discussing summer legends.
The Heinicke Hive is a real thing, and it'll only grow as he generates highlights for the crowds in Richmond in July and serves as the subject of reporters' glowing tweets when the club returns to Ashburn in August. And if he lights it up against, say, the Patriots in the exhibition opener? Well, some of his most staunch believers will start looking at flights to Canton.
What's so intriguing about these preseason heroes is, so often, they either burn out or break out; rarely do they turn into, like, a solid contributor. At this point, Heinicke could still go either way, but whichever route he does take, you can bet tons of eyes will be watching him.
Because of how camp is structured — so many of the drills are catered toward the offense, and there isn't much tackling going on — defenders can sometimes have a difficult time standing out.
One way to shine, though, is by generating turnovers, and Forrest, the rookie safety, got into that habit a few months ago during Washington's earlier team activities:
Should Forrest continue to come up with interceptions, he'll build up a following that'll push for him to get snaps in a crowded defensive backfield. Plus, he's the owner of a marvelous nickname, and those are always helpful to the cause.
Running back produces fan favorites like Alabama cranks out first-round draft picks. The aforementioned Brown, Marcus Mason and Alfred Morris have all resonated with Washington devotees — and Patterson has a good shot of joining them.
He's short — shockingly short, really — but his farcical numbers from his college days at Buffalo show he shouldn't be taken lightly. He won't bump Antonio Gibson or JD McKissic off of the depth chart, but Peyton Barber isn't exactly a mainstay, so there is a path for Patterson to pop.
Furthermore, Barry Sanders endorsed Patterson when he signed as an undrafted free agent with the franchise, and he's buddies with Chase Young, since they were teammates for a season in high school. If he's got clout with those two, he can win some camp crowds over for sure.