Storylines abound in our nation’s capital this week. At the forefront of that long list, however, is likely the potential young quarterback rivalry that could be brewing between Daniel Jones and Dwayne Haskins.
When the New York Giants hosted the Washington Redskins earlier this season, Jones had taken over as the starter for the Giants, while Haskins was still waiting for his turn. The Washington rookie was pressed into action during that meeting after Case Keenum was pulled from the contest due to ineffectiveness. Coming on in relief, Haskins completed just 9 of 17 passes for 104 yards and three interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown.
How has Haskins fared since then?
Results have been mixed. There have been some struggles but the rookie is coming off perhaps two of his better outings of his career. Going through the film of those games provides some evidence that, as with Jones, Haskins is making progress as a young passer.
Take the Week 14 Green Bay game. If you wanted to see video evidence of a rookie quarterback “figuring things out” over the course of a single outing, take this pair of plays. Early in the contest Haskins takes a sack on this double curl route concept:
If you watch this play, however, you will notice that there is a window for Haskins to throw the outside curl route with some anticipation. Rather than pull the trigger, Haskins hesitates, and it leads to a sack.
Later in the game Haskins sees virtually the same route combination, and he gets the ball out of his hands on time and with anticipation:
When a quarterback is decisive and throws using anticipation, he gives his receivers a chance to pick up additional yardage after the catch. Here, Haskins does just that, and it gives fellow rookie Kelvin Harmon a chance to secure the throw, turn up field and pick up yardage after the catch.
Last week against a team desperate for a victory, Haskins turned in his best statistical performance of the year. The rookie completed 19 of 28 passes for 261 yards (his best yardage total of the season, bolstered by a 75-yard catch-and-run from Terry McLaurin) and two touchdowns. His Adjusted Yards Per Attempt (AY/A) of 10.75 was miles above his previous season high of 6.55, posted against the Buffalo Bills in his first start. Additionally, it was his first professional game without a sack. If you are a believer that sacks are in large part a quarterback statistic - as I am - that is also evidence of growth.
Furthermore, when looking at some of the individual plays from Haskins on Sunday, you see even more evidence that the young quarterback is coming along. Take his first throw of the game against the Eagles. Haskins will throw a skinny post route to the left, amidst four defenders. At first blush this sounds like a poor decision, but watch as he throws this route with perfect anticipation:
Haskins throws this before McLaurin (17) clears the underneath flat defender. If he hesitates, or “waits to see it before throwing it,” then McLaurin’s path will take him right into the safety. By throwing this with anticipation and “throwing him open,” Haskins gives his receiver a chance to secure the pass and protect himself before the hit.
In the second quarter, Haskins does a great job of reading the zone coverage rotation and throwing this boundary wheel route on a switch concept:
What I love about this throw is that Haskins puts the ball to the outside giving Steven Sims (15) a chance to secure the throw and put his body between the ball and the nearest defender. Haskins also knows pre-snap that the Eagles are in zone coverage, given their response to the pre-snap motion, so he makes an informed decision to attack the soft spot in the secondary.
(Now is a good time to point out that Washington’s offense is operating with a rookie quarterback and three rookie wide receivers. Quite a lot of room for growth provided that organization can figure things out).
Haskins would cap off that drive with this short touchdown toss to Sims:
Again, at first glance this seems like a risky throw. However, I would grade this as a great read and decision from the quarterback. Haskins knows the Eagles are in man coverage (thanks to the pre-snap motion indicator) and knows that Sims is running a route breaking to the outside. Once he sees the “29” on the back of Avonte Maddox on his jersey, Haskins knows that a throw to the inside - behind the defensive back’s back - will be tough to defend. That is exactly where he puts the throw:
We’ll cap off this study by looking at a throw from the fourth quarter. On this play Haskins works off of play-action and Washington runs a dagger concept, with a seam on the inside and a dig route from McLaurin working towards the middle from the outside. Haskins comes out of his run fake - having turned his back on the defense - and comes up firing:
This throw attacks the soft part of the zone coverage, and gives Washington’s offense a huge play to start this fourth-quarter possession. Once more, Haskins knows that the defense is in zone coverage thanks to their reaction to the pre-snap motion. (I’m driving at a point here, readers …)
With Jones seemingly on track to start Sunday, this will be the first time these quarterbacks - who will be forever linked due to their draft position - will square off as starters. Both have shown progress this season, but how they continue their development remains to be seen. This meeting will serve as a great measuring stick as Washington and New York fans wait and hope for the “year two quarterback bump.”