Competition in name only? Redskins taking patient approach with Haskins

Chris Lingebach
May 14, 2019 - 4:48 pm

Jay Gruden says the Redskins have an open competition for the starting quarterback job, but in reality, they may be taking a more patient tact with rookie Dwayne Haskins.

"They look at him and they say he's got a lot of potential, but he needs a lot of work," Mike Jones of USA Today tells Chad Dukes. "And they don't want to put him out there before he's ready, because, if you do, not only is he going to be learning bad habits, he's going to be making mistakes and he's going to be hurting his chances for success, he's going to be hurting the whole team's chances for success."

JP Finlay of NBC Sports Washington predicts Haskins will be the Week 1 starter in Washington. His argument largely hinges on the two front-runners in the competition, Case Keenum and Haskins, both being unfamiliar with Gruden's offense, and the relative lack of time to learn it creating an urgency for Gruden to pick a starter early in training camp. If it's even close, Haskins gets the job, Finlay says.

"There's one thing that Jay Gruden doesn't have: a lot of time," Jones said. "He's in the last year of his deal. They have not made the playoffs all but one year, and he wants to win. You've got veterans on that team that want to win. This isn't a team that's filled with a lot of rookies and they're kinda gonna build this thing as they go. They can't really afford to put Dwayne Haskins out there before he's ready."

"Now, say they throw Case Keenum out there and they're not really winning a whole lot of games, and you come back after the bye, then maybe they turn it over to Dwayne Haskins," Jones said. "But I don't think that they are going to throw him out there.

"I think that Jay Gruden and his staff, and the guys upstairs, understand that they really gotta make sure that his foundation is firm, because if you put a quarterback out there before he's ready, and he's kind of a little bit of a project guy – he's only played one full season of college football – you are going to really hurt his progress and the team's progress."

"So that's why I think, yeah, reps are great, but you've still got a lot of boxes you've got to check off, a lot of lessons you've got to learn," Jones added. "And you're better rolling with Case Keenum as your game manager than a kid who's gonna make a lot of disastrous mistakes and then really hurt his confidence."

As for the competition aspect, Jones doesn't foresee team owner Dan Snyder or team president Bruce Allen interrupting the process, despite their history of intervening in coaching affairs.

"I think that from everything I've been able to gather, talking to people behind the scenes even, it all depends on how much he is able to learn and how quickly he processes it," Jones said of Haskins competing. "If he's learning, and really picking things up and progressing very quickly, then yes, there will be a competition come training camp.

"But right now, although people felt good about how he looked, they also said he needs a lot of work. And there's a lot of stuff that Case Keenum already knows because he's played in the league. There's the little nuances of the position that you don't have to teach him, so you're ready to win more quickly with him. So Haskins has still got to play catchup. And whether or not there's a competition really is going to depend on how ready he is."

"And so, the Redskins are all on the same page, from what I've been able to gather, when it comes to that," Jones said. "It's just gonna depend on how quickly Haskins is ready. And say he's looking good out there and he's learning very quickly, then they'll compete. But I think right now Case Keenum has a big leg up on that starting job."

Despite Keenum clearly being in the driver's seat, there wouldn't be a lot of value and Gruden naming him the starter right now. Labeling it a competition, Jones says, is a good motivator for all.

"I don't know if you want to hand anything to anybody," Jones said. "If you say, 'Hey, there's a competition,' if he's ready, then you've got Haskins working as hard as he can. And if you say there's a competition, then you've got Case Keenum really working hard and not taking anything for granted either. I don't think that you're gonna hurt his confidence if he doesn't win.

"Look, he said to me that, 'I was a backup my first year at Ohio State and I understood that I had to work hard and learn if I wanted to take that job.' I think that he understands. He's a realist. He wants to go out there and compete, but he also knows that, right now, he's playing catchup. That's exactly how he described it to me: 'I'm playing catchup, trying to get ready for training camp so I can compete with those guys.' And so we'll see how it unfolds."

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