The No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft, Kyler Murray, is starting for the Arizona Cardinals; the No. 6 pick, Daniel Jones, just led a comeback win in his first start for the New York Giants; and even a sixth-round choice, Gardner Minshew, has become a hot name in Jacksonville, first for his mustache and then for his play. At least for a week.
In Washington, Haskins, the 15th pick, continues to sit.
Redskins coach Jay Gruden said after Washington’s 31-15 loss to the Chicago Bears he has no plans to change starting quarterbacks; many in the crowd were chanting for the rookie Monday night after Case Keenum imploded with five turnovers. Instead, they’ll likely get Keenum for another week.
“Well, we’ve played three games and there’s 13 games left in the season,” Gruden said “This season is not lost. It’s not over. I know everybody wants to say, ‘It’s over and the season is over so go ahead and play Haskins.’ We feel confident we can turn this thing around. … If we feel like Dwayne gives us the best chance to win in a coming game, we’ll definitely put Dwayne in there. If we feel like it’s Colt [McCoy] when he gets healthy, it could be Colt. Right now, we feel like it’s Case Keenum and we’re going to move forward with him this week.”
There’s a chance Haskins will play Sunday with some uncertainty about Keenum, who injured his foot in Monday’s loss and was in a walking boot Wednesday. He did not participate in the walk-through, but Gruden said they still anticipate Keenum playing.
So while Jones prepares for his first home start against the Redskins (0-3) on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, Fox), Haskins will keep prepping for his eventual chance. And he’s not comparing his situation to that of other rookies.
“No, I’m happy for those guys,” Haskins said on Friday. “It’s easy to look at the rookie class and be like, ‘Rookies are playing, why am I not playing?’ I want to be like Tom Brady and Drew Brees and that’s something that doesn’t happen overnight. Tom didn’t play at first; Aaron Rodgers didn’t play at first.”
After the Redskins drafted Haskins, they used the word “patient” to describe their approach. He started 14 games at Ohio State. Jones, by comparison, started 36. Minshew started 30. Murray also started 14, but his ability to threaten a defense with his legs enables him to play immediately.
How long will the Redskins be patient? What if the losing continues? With Gruden on the hot seat, they also are facing the possibility of Haskins starting over in a new system in 2020.
“He’s got the skill set to do it,” Gruden said. “There [is] a package of plays he can handle … Obviously you wouldn’t open the entire playbook for him nor would you need to, so you’ve got to make sure you cater to what he knows and what he’s comfortable with, but he’s got the skill set to do it.”
As Haskins sits, he remains confident. A week after the draft, Redskins senior vice president of player personnel Doug Williams said they needed to be patient with Haskins — and he needed patience for himself.
“I know I can play well and play at a high level,” Haskins said. “But I want to keep getting better. I feel I can be really, really good. I want to be a great quarterback, one of those guys you talk about for years to come. That’s not going to happen overnight.
“Everyone has a different path and journey. That’s good for [the other rookies] and that’s the situation they’re in and I’m not.”
Haskins’ routine is to arrive at Redskins Park at about 6:30 a.m. to work out in the weight room and study film before a meeting begins 90 minutes later. It’s similar to what he did in training camp, with the staff spending extra time with him.
During practice, they have him listen in as Keenum calls plays in the huddle — something Haskins started doing midway through camp. And, during practice, Haskins is limited to individual work and scout-team reps. He gets about 20 to 25 reps running scout team; none with the starters. The Redskins need Keenum, in his first year with Washington, to get used to the offense as well.
“I’m trying to maximize the reps because I don’t get a lot,” Haskins said, “and trying to figure out how to make the plays work so I can get better and make it more realistic for myself. … Scout team is tough because it’s not your plays. The defense already has an idea of what you’re going to do so they’re jumping stuff. You’re trying to be as accurate as possible. You don’t know what the reads are, so you’re going by what you think will be open and you try to make the best of it.”
The fact Haskins doesn’t get any first-team reps is fairly common; last season, for example, Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield and Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson did not take first-team reps until they became the starter.
The Redskins run a passing game that numerous coaches, players and executives say has answers for any coverage. For example, it might feature man-coverage beaters on one side and zone-beaters on the other. But that requires the quarterback to quickly diagnose the coverage and make the proper read. There’s also a lot of verbiage involved in the West Coast scheme, so the quarterback not only has to memorize the play but also comprehend what it means.
With every scout-team rep, quarterbacks coach Tim Rattay goes over Haskins’ footwork. When he’s not running scout team and watching Keenum’s reps with the starters, Rattay is constantly in Haskins’ ear. He’ll tell him the play and ask Haskins to say it back to him. He’ll quiz the QB on reads.
“He’s much improved in that area,” Rattay said. “Boom, boom, boom he can spit it out. That’s why every time in practice we’re talking through each play.”
Haskins’ footwork remains a point of emphasis.
“Our quick [passing] game drop is different than what he did in [college],” Rattay said. “That’s something we need to work on and fix. It’s something he’s never done before and it just takes a lot of reps.
“There’s a lot of growth, but it’s not where we want it to be right now. But that’s everybody in the building, too. I like where he’s going and I like that he’s working hard.”
That doesn’t mean it’s easy; it’s also helpful to have a close college friend on the roster.
“As a competitor, he obviously wants to be out there,” Redskins rookie receiver Terry McLaurin said about his Ohio State teammate. “I’m telling him be ready whenever his moment comes. Prepare like you’re a starter; watch film like you’re a starter; compete against the first-team defense even if you’re the scout team quarterback. He’s embracing that role more and more and making our defense really work with some of the throws he can make.”
Haskins said he’s worked on his body as well.
“I feel like I’m getting in great shape and getting my body fat down,” he said.
But Haskins likes how this offense fits him, using some of the mesh route concepts (receivers crossing in the middle of the field) they used at Ohio State. It’s not completely identical, but there is some carryover.
“I’ve done it before and I’m familiar with it,” Haskins said. “I like our receivers a lot. Just trying to get on the same page with Jay and [offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell] and Tim and what they want out of certain plays. All three of them are different. They speak the same language, but they don’t talk the same.”
At some point, the Redskins will turn to Haskins — whether later this season or in 2020. If they’re 0-5 in two weeks, the calls for Haskins will intensify. In the meantime, he must stay patient.
“There’s a difference between being patient and not working,” he said. “I’m hungry. I want to play. As a competitor that’s how you want to operate. But you want to be in the best position to succeed and that’s what I’m waiting for. … I feel good, I feel I can help the team win. I’m ready in case anything happens.”