TINSMAN: Dwayne Haskins in danger of proving he belongs

Brian Tinsman
December 22, 2019 - 8:39 pm

Don't look now, but rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins might be a viable NFL starter if a new coach is willing to work with him in 2020.

Once upon a time, the Washington Redskins had plans to keep him clean this season, absorbing information on the sidelines and from a quarterback room with 32 combined years of NFL experience.

Then the team started 0-5, head coach Jay Gruden threw him under the bus on his way out the door, and a regime change put Haskins in danger of being forgotten. He had to prove his worth before the Redskins selected early in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Taking the reins in Week 8, Haskins looked like what he is: an underclassman playing with mediocre talent against NFL defenses. What would you expect?

Since Week 12, Haskins has shown improvement. He won over his teammates by battling through injuries and making plays. He built a rapport with his trio of rookie receivers. He even won two games and hasn't lost a game by more than 10 points.

These may seem like low hurdles to clear, but they are indications of progress by the youngster. The burning question: does his trajectory continue up?

On Sunday, Haskins played his best half of football before injuring his ankle, completing 12-of-15 passes for 133 yards, two scores and zero turnovers (it's not his fault that the defense yielded 28 first-half points to one of the NFL's worst offenses).

He looked like a passer who could operate Kevin O'Connell's ball-control offense that Alex Smith guided last year.

Depending on how the team reloads this offseason (on both sides of the ball), ball control could become a go-to strategy again. Keep in mind that the Baltimore Ravens, the best team in football, lead the league with an average of more than 34 minutes of possession per game.

Haskins is no Lamar Jackson, but neither was Jackson last season. His dramatic transformation into an MVP playmaker started immediately following his rookie season, and was fueled by a burning desire to redefine himself.

In his own way, Haskins can take a page out of Jackson's book. Step 1: Spend the offseason proving that the team should build around him. Step 2: If he doesn't like how the media portrays him, re-write the script on the field.

With a loss on Sunday, the Redskins are on track to finish last in the NFC East and select second in the draft. Haskins did not return from his ankle injury and wore a walking boot after the game, suggesting that he might not be available next week.

If that's the case, he closed out 2019 with his best performance yet. Hopefully, it will warrant consideration by the team's next coach.

Brian Tinsman has covered D.C. sports since 2011, both from the team marketing and skeptical fan perspectives. Tweet your criticisms @Brian_Tinsman.