PFT 2019 storyline No. 29: When will Dwayne Haskins start?

Mike Florio
ProFootball Talk on NBC Sports

The countdown of the top 30 storylines entering the 2019 season continues, and the pivot from No. 30 to No. 29 entails shifting from a team that addressed its quarterback position on a long-term basis with the first overall pick in the 2012 draft to a team that presumed it did the same with the second overall pick in the 2012 draft.

Seven years later, Robert Griffin III has become a distant memory in D.C. (despite the constant reminder of his lingering NFL presence in nearby Baltimore), and Washington has rolled the dice on another first-round quarterback.

Scroll to continue with content
Ad

This time, maybe they’ve gotten it right. Dwayne Haskins, only the third Ohio State quarterback ever to be drafted in round one, arguably would have been the darling of the 2019 class but for Kyler Murray‘s decision to choose football over baseball. Also, Haskins’ presence in the NFC East creates a compelling apples-to-apples comparison with Giants rookie quarterback Daniel Jones, who was drafted a full nine spots higher.

Haskins could indeed be the real deal, even if a certain goofball comment by a certain weekday-morning ESPN goofball that Haskins is more of a runner than a passer sparked a backlash that has other weekday-morning goofballs with other media outlets still assuming that Haskins isn’t mobile. Haskins is very mobile, as it relates to the things he can do to keep a play alive behind the line of scrimmage. He buys time with his feet to find open receivers, and if he can do the same thing when the guys against whom he’s buying time are NFL-caliber defenders, Haskins could be special.

For now, the question as it relates to the 2019 season will be when do we see that?

The challenge for Haskins, who has one year of college football starting experience, will be to master the offense quickly enough to overcome both Colt McCoy‘s knowledge of it and Case Keenum‘s grossly underrated skillset. Like Haskins, Keenum has the ability to extend plays by moving left or right or left and right behind the line. Unlike Haskins, Keenum has proven that he can do it at the NFL level, with a special season in 2017 that became forgotten as quickly as it arrived after a subpar 2018 in Denver.

The overriding question for Washington becomes whether the goal this year is to win as many games as possible or to accelerate Haskins’ learning curve for the benefit of future versions of the team. Given that coach Jay Gruden seems to be as aware as the rest of us that the ice under his feet is getting thinner and the seat under his butt is getting hotter, he’ll be inclined to use the guy that gives the team the best chance to contend.

Also, it will be easier to roll the dice from Week One with McCoy or Keenum and then, if needed, flip to Haskins. Once Haskins is the starter, it becomes tricky to bench him, lest it damage his ability to eventually reach his overall ceiling, wherever it may be.

It may be very high. The question is whether Washington currently has or will ever have enough around him to allow him to get there. As Haskins’ rookie season begins, the more important question is when/if we’ll see him play as a rookie.

He has said on multiple occasions that he’s fine with playing or not playing, but like any NFL player Haskins surely wants to play, sooner than later.

What to Read Next