ASHBURN, Va. — The Washington Redskins would still like to take it slow with rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins. Even at 1-7. They know he’s the future; they want him more prepared in the present. They also know his development now could — should — help him in the future.
That future could start to take place Sunday in Buffalo (1 p.m. ET, Fox) — not by design, but because of an injury to starter Case Keenum. With Keenum still in the concussion protocol, Haskins was named the starter for the first time this season. Keenum was limited in practice for a second consecutive day, giving Haskins the bulk of the first-team reps in those workouts.
Haskins said he has a different mindset. He knew that fired coach Jay Gruden did not want to draft him, but didn’t say if that was the impetus for his different mindset.
“I just think it’s a change in me,” Haskins said. “A lot of stuff. I’m just excited to keep working.”
Thus far, Haskins’ only action has come in relief. He replaced an injured Keenum in a Week 4 loss to the New York Giants. He entered with the Redskins trailing 14-0 and completed 9 of 17 for 108 yards and three interceptions. Then, in last week’s 19-9 loss in Minnesota, he entered with Washington trailing 13-6 after Keenum suffered a concussion. In one half of action, Haskins completed 3 of 5 for 33 yards and an interception.
The Redskins still have Colt McCoy, but prefer to play Haskins Sunday for a simple fact: He was the No. 15 pick in the 2019 draft and, even if multiple people in the organization say he still has a lot of work to do, eventually the job will belong to him. Redskins interim coach Bill Callahan said that if healthy, Keenum would start. And he said there is no set date for when they would have Haskins start permanently.
“In some respects, I think he needs a little bit more work,” Callahan said. “Time is invaluable where he can sit back and learn from quarterbacks like Case and Colt as well as players like Alex [Smith] who is around the building. It is a fine line. We are trying to win games still.”
But to win in the future, they also know Haskins must develop now. They have worked quite a bit on various aspects, from his body language to how much more work he needs to do and learning the plays properly. There’s also footwork, cadence, play tempo and learning more about being a pocket passer.
A day after the Vikings’ loss, Callahan met with Haskins and discussed areas he wanted him to improve, starting with situational awareness and managing the game better.
“Knowing where we are at on the field,” Callahan said. “Trajectory of throws, fundamental techniques, those rotations and follow through. Getting in and getting out of the huddle. Really working the offense at an upbeat tempo where he can have time at the line of scrimmage.”
Callahan said he liked Haskins’ approach after the Minnesota game.
“He’s shown the willingness and the diligence to improve,” Callahan said. “He’s taken it upon himself to come in and visit and talk and to express himself in terms of what he can do better. He wants to win, he does have that aspect to him, he has that trait that you’d like to see in all of your quarterbacks where they hurt afterwards, but they bounce back.”
Haskins said getting a full week’s worth of repetitions will help him. In the locker room at Minnesota, he said the game he felt fully prepared for was Week 7 against San Francisco. Why? Because he got more reps throughout the week. He didn’t play, but he felt more comfortable.
“Very important, it means a lot,” Haskins said. “Just being in the rhythm and seeing it on the field instead of not knowing what it looks like. It helps out a lot.”
There’s a school of thought that the Redskins should simplify their offense to help Haskins, and offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell has been putting together a package of plays for him. They also can help him by continuing to run the ball. In the past two weeks, Buffalo has allowed 327 yards rushing on 71 carries.
Haskins’ play on Sunday could determine when he takes the job for good. He’ll need to impress veterans who haven’t felt he was ready; he’ll also have to show it to the coaches.
In general, Callahan wants Haskins to earn more chances.
“Like I keep saying, it’s a privilege,” Callahan said. “It’s not a right. Our players are of the understanding that when their moment is called, they’ve got to deliver and it’s a production business for me, for anybody. We all have to take that accountability seriously and produce when the time is called.”