The New York Giants meet another bottom-feeding team on Sunday when they face the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field in Landover, Md. We discuss the game and the state of both teams in this week’s ‘5 questions’ segment with Andrew York of Hogs Haven.
Ed: Now that the Redskins have finally let Dwayne Haskins play for a while what are your thoughts on him? Does he look like a guy who can become a quality NFL quarterback?
Andrew: I mentioned in our last 5 Questions that Haskins was very raw, and there were several areas where that was visible: footwork, cadence in calling plays, ability to read defenses and call protections, and speed in going through progressions. All of those weaknesses have been visible in his play so far this season, but he has made visible improvement in all of those areas as well. He no longer seems to have trouble with his cadence when calling plays, and I don’t think I’ve seen a single false start by the offensive line due to his cadence since his first couple of weeks starting (and he’s even been able to draw opposing teams offsides with the occasional hard count). His speed in going through progressions has likewise improved quite a bit, to the point that I don’t think it’s really an issue anymore. I think his biggest sticking points are his throwing mechanics (of which his footwork is the most obvious example) and his ability to call protections. He has improved in both of these areas, but still has a ways to go. He needs to get better at setting his feet, as I think he got used to throwing purely with his arm in college (he has a big arm). He also faces a lot of free rushers and takes a lot of sacks, which I think is largely due to calling poor protections at the line because he has trouble processing all the different looks opposing defenses are giving him. This is just part of the rookie learning curve, and it’s an even steeper curve for a QB with so little starting experience even at the college level.
Overall though, Haskins has looked better in every game he plays. He clearly has a tremendous amount of arm talent and has surprised fans with his ability to scramble in the pocket and extend plays. The biggest thing is that he has looked better in every game, and finally last week against the Eagles looked like the engine of the offense. In addition to that, he seems to have a lot of the intangibles and the rest of the team has been playing hard for him. It’s still too early to say what his future will be, but he has flashed enough potential and shown enough improvement that he will certainly be the starter going forward and Redskins fans are hopeful (though not yet confident) that he will be a franchise QB.
Ed: What does the likely list of head-coaching candidates look like for the Redskins this offseason?
Andrew: Fans have been discussing this quite a bit, but a lot is up in the air until Team President Bruce Allen is removed and his replacement selected. With Bruce Allen in power, any new head coach was likely to be connected to him from a previous team. Owner Dan Snyder already attempted to trade for Mike Tomlin (who worked with Bruce in Tampa Bay), but the Steelers were not interested in his offer. Rumors have recently been surfacing that Bruce would like to target Stanford head coach David Shaw. However, reports have also surfaced that the Redskins have received a “surprising” amount of pushback from people they have contacted as potential head coaches, the implication being that none of them want to work under the current power structure with Bruce Allen in charge. If and when Bruce leaves office, a lot of options would open up, but the details would depend on who the new Team President and GM are.
Some fans have speculated Alex Smith’s reported increasingly close ties to owner Dan Snyder could be paving the way for a front office role, in which case Eric Bieniemy and Urban Meyer might get contacted as coaches with former ties to Alex Smith. The vertical passing attack Bieniemy installed in Kansas City would also be a great fit for Haskins’ big arm, and Urban Meyer coached Haskins at Ohio State. That’s all pure speculation though, and anything is on the table.
Ed: Will there be more Giants fans or more Washington fans in the stands at FedEx Field on Sunday?
Andrew: Honestly, this will probably be similar to the Lions game at FedEx, where tickets were selling for as low as $5 due to lack of interest from both sides. Don’t worry, though, you’ll still get gouged for $12 Bud Lights and pretzels, so there’s no such thing as a free lunch. I’d expect more Redskins fans, though, given the inertia of season ticket holders having nothing better to do on a Sunday.
Ed: First time around I really didn’t ask you about Ereck Flowers. What are your thoughts on the former Giants offensive tackle?
Andrew: He has been a revelation at left guard and has won the hearts of many fans on Hogs Haven. I’m not even joking. He has been a mauler in the run game and very good in pass protection. I think the consensus is that he lacks lateral agility and footwork, which made him a terrible offensive tackle (including when he was asked to play left tackle for the Skins in training camp due to injuries and the Trent Williams holdout). However, moving inside to guard really allowed him to shine. He has such a powerful upper body, long arms, and a mean streak, which have allowed him to dominate interior defensive lineman all season so long as he has a smaller box to account for as guard. His biggest technique problem as a guard has been that he started out playing too high (and standing up too quickly), but he seems to have improved on that once it was really the main thing for him to focus on. Many of the reasons he struggled at offensive tackle, but succeeded at guard were predicted in this article. In addition, Flowers seems to be enjoying the game more than he was in previous years. Not only has he said himself he’s enjoying football more than ever, but he’s often the first guy to help another player up after the whistle, and he’s had great camaraderie with teammates, as evidenced recently when Derrius Guice gave Flowers his first touchdown ball to spike. Overall, Flowers has been a great starter at left guard and I find myself hoping the Redskins can extend him.
Ed: Which team is closer -- roster, coaching staff, front office included -- to putting together a contender. The Giants or the Redskins?
Andrew: It’s tough, because I think a lot will change with both teams in the offseason. I think the Redskins roster is better and has more talent, but I’d give a first-round pick to trade Dan Snyder for John Mara any day. Snyder is undoubtedly the biggest reason the Redskins have fallen from grace and failed to achieve any sort of success in the last 20 years, though he seems to be taking more of a backseat in football operations in the past few years, which gives fans some hope. I actually like a lot of the lower-level people in charge the Redskins front office in recent years because we have been drafting pretty well, as shown by the breakout seasons of some of our players (Terry McLaurin, Matt Ioannidis, Quinton Dunbar), despite the poor record of the team. But unfortunately, those successes seem to get overshadowed every year by the higher-level mismanagement of people like Dan Snyder and Bruce Allen. In terms of coaching staff, I think it’s a wash, as most of these coaches will be on different teams next year.
So overall, I’d give an edge to the Redskins in terms of roster, an edge to the Giants in terms of ownership/front office (really just ownership), and I think it’s a push as far as coaching. That results in two very close teams. I think a lot could change for both teams depending on how the offseason goes though. I also think both teams have a lot more talent on their roster than their season record indicates. That leaves a lot of room for improvement next year if better coaching staff can maximize that talent. At the same time, neither team is a contender right now, and will need a lot of things to go right in the offseason before they will be a contender. If either team is closer than the other, it’s only by a hair, and that could all change in a few weeks.