Haskins should be named Redskins starting QB for rest of season

Craig Hoffman
November 04, 2019 - 7:03 am
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ORCHARD PARK -- Dwayne Haskins’s first NFL start became very much not about Dwayne Haskins, thanks to a run-heavy gameplan that showed very little of what the rookie quarterback is capable of.

Some of that was based on the conditions in cold, windy Buffalo but some of it was also a concerted effort not to put too much on the rookie’s plate.

The result was just three field goals worth of points and a 24-9 loss. 

Haskins attempted just 22 passes and none farther than 20 yards as the Bills kept the Redskins without a touchdown for their third straight game. It is the first time in Washington’s 88 year history that they haven’t scored a touchdown in three straight contests.

Adrian Peterson had one of the best first halves of his storied career. The future hall of famer had 101 yards rushing, the 9th most he’s ever had in a first half in his career. He also had a huge gain on a screen pass that gave him 123 yards from scrimmage, his 6th best first half ever.

The problem is the Redskins didn’t even try to play off that success. They ran little play-action and were never able to get Terry McLaurin in single coverage. The Bills kept a safety over top of him nearly all day and Haskins rarely looked his way. They were able to get the standout rookie four catches in quick game and screen situations for 39 yards, but it feels like he hasn’t had a deep target since interim coach Bill Callahan’s first game against Miami.

The aforementioned conditions didn’t help either. Players on both sides acknowledged that unless a quarterback had the wind at his back, there was essentially no chance to throw deep. That was true despite Haskins and Josh Allen having two of the stronger arms in the league. The lack of any deep passing game led to condensed spaces and a lack of open receivers. Even in the first half when Peterson was going, the Redskins couldn’t get the ball in the end zone. 

NFL defenses are designed to bend but not break. Coordinators have figured out that even giving up field goals isn’t catastrophic. As defensive coordinator Greg Manusky pointed out this week, even giving up five field goals is still a two-possession game.

While “points come in the passing game” is slightly overstating it, it’s why chunk plays matter in this league. Without them, teams have to consistently execute at a level that is not sustainable. It is even less sustainable with a questionable offensive line, rookie quarterback and no receiving threat at tight end in an offense that was designed all off-season to create matchups for tight ends.

The most important long-term thing that happened in Sunday's game was growth for Haskins. It might have been hard to see, but it was unquestionably there. 

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Haskins said he got comfortable as the game went on. He was seeing things quicker. That is ultimately why those of us who have argued he should have been playing since at least the Miami game think he should be playing and should continue to play. 

The game was far too fast for him. The more he plays it, the more it will slow down. The more he calls the same plays over and over, the less he will call them incorrectly. The more he runs them against different teams and different looks, the more it will all become more familiar and he can start to really make some plays.

We saw that in spurts today. There were moments of quick decisions. There were less operational issues. There were rare flashes of the talent that helped produce the gawdy numbers we saw at Ohio State. It was progress, albeit in another loss amidst an otherwise lost season.

Haskins finding confidence and gaining experience is the one thing to be had between now and January. Callahan was again non-committal after the game about his starting quarterback, but there is zero question in this reporter’s mind that he should step to the podium Monday and announce he is the starter moving forward. The more the organization has given Haskins, the better he’s responded.

To not go into the bye with him salivating about the next start, which would be his first home start against the first team to lose to the Dolphins, would be a mistake.

Even though he did not lead a touchdown drive, Haskins proved the job should be his. Callahan speaks at 3 p.m. Monday.

Craig Hoffman is the Redskins beat reporter for 106.7 The Fan. His post-game columns are powered by Dell EMC and TVAR Solutions -- transforming the federal data center.

Follow @CraigHoffman for more Redskins insights.