Redskins quarterbacks Colt McCoy (12), Case Keenum (8) and Dwayne Haskins (7) all have a chance to win the starting job.
RICHMOND, Virginia — As Washington Redskins quarterback Colt McCoy exited the room, teammate and fellow quarterback Case Keenum entered. It was podium day for all three Redskins quarterbacks, none of whom know which one will start the season. That could lead to tension; it hasn’t.
So as these two passed, Keenum jokingly told McCoy, “Good job. I’m proud of you.” And tapped him on the backside as McCoy chuckled.
This isn’t exactly a competition where the quarterbacks — rookie Dwayne Haskins included — are giving the others a cold shoulder. Each one understands why they’re in this position — and why they could end up with the job. For Keenum and McCoy, they’re veterans who have started and backed up. Haskins is a first-round pick but only started one year in college. He has the talent to start, but perhaps not the experience.
So far Keenum and McCoy have been alternating days taking the first reps. Haskins is clearly running third, though he has been getting work with the starting offensive line.
“It might come down to the wire,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “It might come down to Saturday before the [season opener vs. Philadelphia].
“It’s interesting. It’s actually fun. The most important thing is who is the most consistent, the most accurate, and who does the best in the move-the-ball periods in some of the team settings.”
Handicapping the race:
Why he could start: McCoy, entering his 10th season, has spent five years in Gruden’s offense, giving him a major edge. That comfort is evident when watching him run the offense during full-team work. Or even during individual drills. At one point Friday, when the other quarterbacks were throwing, Gruden would bark out when to release the ball. They were working on holding the safety with their eyes before turning back and throwing. When McCoy’s turn came, Gruden was silent. McCoy threw it at the precise time and the receiver caught it as he turned.
Why he might not: McCoy is coming off a broken leg that required surgery to insert pins. He ended up needing three procedures — one more than they thought would be necessary. He also suffered a neck injury late in the 2014 season that cost him the final three games — and the starting job. Also, as much as the organization expresses its love for McCoy — and it’s far more than just Gruden — they’ve never turned to him as the starter when there’s a competition. Though his arm has been criticized, McCoy said it’s improved after strengthening his legs.
“Drew Brees said the older you get, the stronger his arm felt, and I can’t argue with that,” McCoy said. “I thought he was lying when he was 32, 33, but I have worked hard at that for sure. Your force comes from the ground. That comes from my leg, getting that strength in, getting that in-the-ground throwing, being confident in that. I’m a little rusty for a couple of days on some things, but overall, I feel pretty confident.”
Why he could start: Keenum has started a combined 30 games the past two years and during the 2017 season helped Minnesota reach the NFC Championship Game. Like McCoy, he can make plays with his legs and has a competitive nature the Redskins like. He was on their target list in the 2018 offseason before the team traded for Alex Smith. Keenum was the No. 1 veteran quarterback on their list this past offseason.
Why he might not: He’s still getting used to the offense. It’s a difficult offense to learn in just one offseason, so that could slow Keenum’s quest to win the starting job — at least at the start of the season. He, too, is working on his timing. Though he does throw with a veteran’s confidence, there are times he might be off because of his inexperience in the offense.
“I feel good, but at the same time, I’m a long way away,” Keenum said. “There’s a lot of room to grow. I love this offense. It’s one of my favorite offenses I’ve ever played in. I love the way they see the field, the way they see offense.”
Why he could start: He could win the job because he’s the most physically talented of the group and was the 15th overall pick in the draft. Haskins is clearly the future of the franchise. Sometimes in practice, he’ll make throws, whether a feathery deep ball or a bullet on an out route, that allow the Redskins to see visions of their future.
Why he might not: Inexperience. Patience is always preached when his name is mentioned — from owner Dan Snyder on down. Haskins wasn’t always responsible for calling plays in the huddle in college, something he must do well in the NFL. He’s still getting the timing down — matching up his drop with the receivers’ breaks. When he’s on, Haskins looks terrific. When it’s just going through progressions, Haskins does well. When he needs to decide where to go based on the coverage, his feet sometimes don’t match up with his body and that leads to off-target throws. He’s learning; he’s improving.
“I want to master the playbook for me to be able to call plays on my own, for me to be able to understand what Coach Gruden wants when he calls a play and that will take time,” Haskins said. “Every day I’m just trying to make sure I know my job.”