ROCKVILLE — The quarterback controversy in Washington has unofficially begun.
On Aug. 4, the Washington Redskins released their unofficial depth chart, ahead of their first preseason game against the Cleveland Browns.
The depth chart listed incumbent Colt McCoy at the top, followed by Case Keenum and rookie Dwayne Haskins. It has become a talking point on sports-talk radio, a discussion point for fans and a headline for NFL articles across the web, with journeyman McCoy at the top and a first-round, and former Ohio State star Haskins in third.
But do not make too much of the depth chart. Head Coach Jay Gruden downplayed any suggestion that the current depth chart matters at all.
“It’s early and I was forced to make it,” Gruden said. “I wouldn’t have made a depth chart right now; there’s no reason to, it’s silly.”
However, the case is that there is a three-man race for the starting quarterback job.
With the three men splitting snaps in training camp, and the team’s first preseason set for Aug. 8, the team has a quarterback battle on its hands without any clear indication as to who is leading yet.
If you listen to Gruden, it is hard to figure out what he thinks of the situation, as he is expressing praise for all three quarterbacks at each press conference.
McCoy is the only healthy returning healthy quarterback on the roster, and he is going into his fifth year in Gruden’s system. Gruden has routinely spoken glowingly about McCoy but said that he is limited in getting reps with the first team throughout his tenure in Washington.
“That’s just the way it is at the quarterback position. Colt’s (McCoy) got the most experience in the system, but he still hasn’t played a whole lot,” Gruden said. “He hasn’t taken a lot of reps. Last year, it was all about Alex (Smith); the year before that it was all about Kirk (Cousins), and getting them ready. “
Lastly, Gruden and McCoy got their opportunities, but only for a short time. McCoy relieved the injured Smith in Week 11 last season against the Houston Texans. McCoy performed admirably, leading Washington just short of a remarkable fourth-quarter comeback.
The next week was not as impressive, as McCoy threw three interceptions in a loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
Following that game, it spelled the end of McCoy’s season after just two starts because he broke his leg in a Monday night game at the Philadelphia Eagles.
With quarterback depth being an issue last season, Washington traded for Keenum from the Denver Broncos. Keenum has spent his career as a journeyman, who earned himself a big contract in Denver after he led the Minnesota Vikings to the NFC Championship Game in the 2017 season.
Last season was a long one in Denver for Keenum, as the Broncos finished 6-10 and Keenum finished with a lowly 18 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions. But while Keenum had a poor season last year, he is a veteran with a history of some success.
With McCoy gone for much of the offseason practices, still recovering from a leg break, Keenum got many of the reps with the Redskins’ first teams offense. While Keenum is new to the team, he is familiar with the West Coast-style offseason that Gruden runs, and his veteran status gives him the experience to adapt quickly, as his teammates have said.
“Case (Keenum) is a good vet that we have. He’s trying to find his leadership role as he’s grasping the playbook,” said wide receiver Paul Richardson.
With Washington spending the 15th overall pick on Haskins, do not be surprised if you see him on the field this season. While he is third on the depth chart, if history is any indication, first-round rookie quarterbacks are not long on the bench.
In the Aug. 8 preseason game against the Browns, expect much of the focus to be on Haskins. He may not be playing with the starters or running Gruden’s real offseason, but every throw will be analyzed by pundits and then used to project his future in Washington.
So far, Haskins has eased himself into the NFL. After starting only one year at Ohio State, Gruden has noted that the biggest challenge facing Haskins is adjusting to the NFL playbook, which is much more complex than what he was used to in college.
“He’s doing a great job out there – making his plays, making his drills, reading his reads,” said Redskins safety Landon Collins about Haskins. “He’s being a rookie. Honestly, all rookies are going to make their mistakes.
“I am glad he is making them now in camp, so he can know what he can and cannot do; what he cannot throw; and what he can throw, just how to read the defense.”