Perhaps the most shocking result of the first week of the 2020 NFL season was seeing the Washington Football Team come back from a 17-point deficit and beat the Philadelphia Eagles. Sure, much of the attention has been aimed at the effort from Washington’s defense, who sacked Carson Wentz eight times in the win. But do not forget about the young quarterback. In the comeback Dwayne Haskins showed decisive quarterbacking for Washington, which is exactly what the team needs to see from him in 2020.
Haskins completed 17 of 31 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown. From an efficiency standpoint, it was not the greatest performance. Those numbers translate to a completion percentage of just 54.8%, a Yards per Attempt of 5.7, and an Adjusted Yards per Attempt of just 5.26. Hardly earth-shattering. However, what you want to see from a young quarterback – especially in that critical second season – is the game slow down for them. You want to see that mental growth.
Take this completion to wide receiver Steven Sims from the third quarter. Washington runs everyone’s favorite play, four verticals. The Eagles show the quarterback a single-high coverage before the snap, but there is a twist. They drop into an inverted Cover 2 here, with the player who looks to be the free safety staying down a bit to cover the intermediate area of the field. The two cornerbacks drop into half-field alignments.
As a quarterback running this design against Cover 2, you need to either attack along the boundary in the soft spot, or get it out quickly up the seam. Haskins chooses the latter:
Haskins puts this throw high and slightly behind the receiver, who has to throttle down a bit to make the catch. At first blush the pass seems off target, but when you see the replay angle, you’ll appreciate where the QB puts this throw:
Haskins sees that the nearest defender to Sims – the retreating cornerback to that side – is playing just outside the hash. This puts that defender inside of Sims, and leads to the Cover 2 read from the quarterback. But given where that defender is in relation to Sims, if Haskins leads the receiver vertically or to the inside even just a bit, he will be throwing his receiver into danger. Instead, he almost makes this a back-shoulder throw, forcing Sims to adjust, and settle. The placement not only protects his receiver, but shows an advanced understanding of leverage and coverage in a compressed period of time. Exactly what you want to see from a young passer.
Then there is this huge 3rd and 9 conversion early in the fourth quarter:
Washington runs a duo of West Coast staples on this conversion. On the right side of the formation they run Tosser, or double slants. To the left side they run D-Slant, with a flat route from the tight end and a slant route from the wide receiver. The tight end comes in motion here and the safety trails him, so Haskins can be confident he is getting man coverage in the secondary. So when the Eagles bring a linebacker blitz there is no panic from the quarterback. Sure, Philadelphia is going with a Cover 0 blitz, but Haskins knows the coverage thanks to the pre-snap motion, he sees the cornerback playing off over the slant route, so the ball comes out immediately. He releases this throw while the safety responsible for the tight end has yet to clear the throwing lane, but since Haskins knows that defender is buzzing to the flat to cover the tight end, he can be confident in the decision.
This again is decisive quarterbacking. The kind of processing speed and decision-making you want from a second-year QB.
Washington Football Team…excuse me, the NFC East-leading Washington Football Team now gets to travel west to take on the Arizona Cardinals in a rather surprising matchup of 1-0 teams. Heading into 2020 many thought it would be Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray who would make the big “second year QB leap” but if Haskins continues to play with this kind of decision-making and processing speed, he’ll be coming for that title as well.