Redskins 10 Questions: Who wins the starting QB job?

10 in 10: The Countdown to Redskins Training Camp

Craig Hoffman
July 23, 2019 - 7:52 am
Redskins quarterbacks Case Keenum and Dwayne Haskins

Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

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Believe it or not, training camp is almost here. After one of the most consequential Redskins off-seasons of the last two decades, we’ll start to answer the biggest questions we have about the football team. 

With ten days to go until Richmond, The Fan started asking our ten biggest questions about the 2019 Washington Redskins. Eight questions later, the two biggest stories remain. Who would have thought there’d be one bigger than this, but here we go!

2. Position Battle: Quarterback

Quarterback is the most important position in all of sports. No single player in any other sport plays as big of a factor in winning and losing as a quarterback does, based solely on his job responsibilities.

Basketball is positionless. Baseball pitchers are close, but they still rely on an offense over which they have no control. Same for a goalie in hockey. A quarterback can control the entire game though, even when he’s not on the field.

Alex Smith was the epitome of this. By never turning the ball over, being in control of the tempo of the game and being comfortable with a ball-control offense, Smith has helped his defenses perform better on the field by keeping them off it. This was absolutely true last year when the Redskins started 6-3 before Smith’s catastrophic leg injury.

Of course, in that moment, the entire franchise changed in ways we couldn’t have possibly known at the time. After years of uncertainty due to Robert Griffin’s health and Kirk Cousins’s contract, the Redskins had finally found their stable, long-term solution in Smith. And then he was gone. Every ounce of long term planning had to be started again, and the result was on offseason that brought in Case Keenum and more importantly Dwayne Haskins.

That leads us into training camp, where a three-man competition is ready to begin. Colt McCoy is a factor here. He has the best working knowledge of the Redskins offense. He did miss the entire offseason recovering from multiple offseason surgeries to fix a broken leg, but he’s thrown to Josh Doctson, Paul Richardson and Trey Quinn as much as Keenum and Haskins, and he’s thrown more to Jordan Reed, who also took his time recovering this offseason. 

Keenum brings significantly more NFL experience to the table, though. Keenum has started 54 NFL games. McCoy has started half that many, 27. Just six of McCoy’s starts have been since 2012. Keenum has started at least that many games in each of the last three seasons, including 16 last year in Denver.

The two players are extraordinarily similar. They are similar sized. Keenum has a little better arm. McCoy’s more mobile. Both are very smart and attack the game with a similar, aggressive mentality.

Neither of them has elite traits, however, and neither has proven to be consistent enough to warrant an unquestioned starting job in his career. Enter the kid.

Dwayne Haskins has an A+ arm. He lofts deep balls through the air that will absolutely take your breath away. He fires rockets over the middle on time and on target. When it’s right, he looks like he was born to play quarterback, and at 6’3” 230 pounds with a cool, calm demeanor he might just have been.

However, Haskins isn’t ready for the NFL yet. His decision-making is often too slow. Windows are fleeting in the NFL and if the ball isn’t out on time, you’re either going to get a receiver killed, get intercepted or get sacked. Haskins took a ton of sacks in the spring, which isn’t good when the pass rush isn’t even real. 

The key question to this entire competition is how fast Haskins can get NFL ready. If he can adjust and get his lows to an acceptable level, his highs are far beyond the two veterans. The measure of greatness is consistency. Neither McCoy or Keenum is that, so if Haskins' highs are higher, why not play him if the lows are the same?

That’s what camp is for. This is as live as it gets, and if Haskins performs when the bullets are firing, he’s going to start not because the owner thinks he should, but because it’s the right football decision. Can he make up that ground in three weeks? If not, who emerges amongst the two veterans? It’s where all eyes will be during practices all camp long. 

What could possibly be a bigger story than that? Come back tomorrow to find out, and then it’s off to Richmond for the answers.

Question 10: Will Rob Ryan and Ray Horton have an impact?

Question 9: Who's the odd-man-out at middle linebacker?

Question 8: Can Montae Nicholson return to form?

Question 7: What impact will Kevin O’Connell have as OC?

Question 6: Who wins position battle at wide receiver?

Question 5: How will cornerback battle shake out?

Question 4: Can Derrius Guice stay healthy?

Question 3: Will Brandon Scherff get a contract extension?