ROCKVILLE — Dwayne Haskins had quite the eventful NFL debut last week in Cleveland.
While the Washington Redskins’ first-round draft pick did not start the preseason opener against the Cleveland Browns on Aug. 8, he certainly made a big impression, in both good and bad ways.
In Washington’s 30-10 loss to the Browns, Haskins went 8 for 14, throwing for 117 yards and two interceptions. The interceptions are what stood out to Redskins Head Coach Jay Gruden, who said Haskins needed to work on doing a better job of understanding protections and making better decisions with the ball.
“The big thing is, we’re trying to really get corrected is just everything – his fundamentals, protections and all that stuff which will come,” Gruden said of Haskins’ performance against the Browns. “But, for his first game, I thought he handled the pressure, the noise, the cadence, the huddle, the tempo. I thought (he) was really good, so there is a lot to build on.”
The starting quarterback job was not won or lost in Week One of the preseason, Gruden said, adding that he and the coaching staff are still taking their time to evaluate all three options for quarterback.
However, the preseason game was the first opportunity for Gruden and fans alike to get a look at two of the quarterbacks for the first time in a Redskins uniform.
It was his NFL debut, and preseason games do not resemble actual NFL competition, with backups dominating the playing time, and little actual game planning by coaches. It was also Haskins’ first NFL action, after starting just 13 games in college for Ohio State.
His first pass was a 27-yard competition to wide receiver Darvin Kidsy. Haskins’ first interception came early in the second quarter as he tried to lob a swing pass to running back Byron Marshall, in which Browns’ linebacker Mack Wilson promptly returned the interception for a touchdown.
Then, later in the second quarter, Haskins stepped into the pocket and overthrew tight end Matt Flanagan for his second pick of the game.
Haskins also took several hits, including two sacks, something that Gruden blamed on Haskins’s limited understanding of protections.
“Obviously, there was a couple throws there he wished he had back,” Gruden said. “A couple (of) things with the protections, we got to get cleaned up.”
Haskins’ performance was not all bad. While the rookie had to play in front of the pass, he was able to complete some throws and connect with receivers on big plays.
For now, the Redskins quarterback battle remains open. Veteran Case Keenum started the game, playing during most of the first quarter. Haskins followed, getting the bulk of the work, and playing much of the second and third quarters. Incumbent Colt McCoy did not play.
While Haskins got the most snaps at quarterback in the first preseason game, Keenum and McCoy are still ahead of him in the first-team reps in practice.
“You know, I was trying to figure out the flow of the game, the play clock, how Jay (Gruden) calls plays in a real- game atmosphere and trying to get guys to the line of scrimmage and make things work,” Haskins said. “You know, I thought I did a pretty good job.”
For Keenum, last Thursday’s game was a few quick drives. Keenum went on 4-9, throwing for 60 yards with a lone touchdown pass on a broken-coverage play, finding a wide-open Robert Davis, who ran into the end zone untouched.
For much of his limited time, Keenum was rushed, with Cleveland’s starters making easy work of the Redskins’ backup offensive line.
“I need to go back and watch the film, but we did some good things —moved the ball — obviously scored on that drive,” Keenum said of his performance. “But, you know, there’s obviously still a lot of things I want to get better at.”
For the few drives that Keenum played, he was under duress, with projected backups starting the game at the offensive line instead of a long-established veteran like Morgan Moses or Brandon Scherff.
Like most of the team’s starter, McCoy did not play at Cleveland, as he is still recovering from the broken leg he sustained late in the season last year.
Gruden said he expects that McCoy will play in next week’s preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals.