ASHBURN—Robert Griffin III became a rookie sensation in part because of the offense the Redskins coaching staff built for him.
Then-offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan installed a system that played to Griffin’s strengths and dramatically simplified the number of decisions the quarterback had to make.
Don’t expect anything similar for Dwayne Haskins.
The Redskins’ next great rookie hope, the franchise is hoping to avoid Griffin’s fate and set Haskins up for long-term success in the NFL.
That means immersing him in the world of coverages, checks and the hundreds of other things a pro quarterback must process between breaking the huddle and throwing the football.
“This is a long-term process, and we’re trying to get him to learn our system,” said offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell. “We have bits and pieces of the system that I think are comfortable, because he’s done some of those things before, but really across the board, just like the other quarterbacks, we’re just trying to get them acclimated to everything here while the teaching process is going on.”
For Haskins, that process meant playing two quarters of last week’s preseason game in Cleveland, and more time will be on tap Thursday night when the Redskins play host to the Cincinnati Bengals.
It’s considered extremely unlikely at this point that Haskins will open the season as the Redskins starter, so he’ll be closely monitored for growth in the preseason games.
“He did some really good things for his first game,” coach Jay Gruden said. “We asked a lot of him, probably more so than a lot of the other quarterbacks in their first year. We did a lot of different things – protections and different route concepts. I thought he handled it pretty well.”
Haskins played just one season of college football at Ohio State, but is regarded as a student of the game who has the potential to excel at the pro level. He’s also strong as a pocket passer, something that differentiates him from the more mobile Griffin.
In Washington, Haskins has been brought into a supportive ecosystem that includes veteran quarterbacks Colt McCoy and Case Keenum, as well as Alex Smith. The team’s assistants also include three former quarterbacks—O’Connell, Matt Cavanaugh and Tim Rattay.
“Not once did I ever feel like I was a rookie quarterback that couldn’t ask questions or, you know, feel like I was getting bullied or anything like that,” he said. “They want me to talk, they want me to answer questions – vets are asking me questions and it’s a very open meeting room. There are plays I don’t even get in and they’re asking me questions about it and I just think that’s a great opportunity for me to make sure I know what I’m doing.”
That total immersion approach might slow Haskins’ readiness for the next level, but the Redskins staff is hopeful that when things click, it will pay off in an increased ability to call multiple plays and looks for the young quarterback, making it tougher for defenses to adjust.
For now, Haskins also has the luxury of playing on a roster with Keenum and McCoy, meaning the team has other options. Of course, a few losses to start the season could increase the pressure on the Redskins to put in the young quarterback.
Running back Adrian Peterson said he’s liked what he’s seen so far, and feels the needed growth is happening.
“These last two weeks of training camp, he’s become comfortable with the offense and being able to come into the huddle (and call a play),” Peterson said. “A lot of people were hard on him because of the two interceptions (in the first preseason game), but these things are easy to fix.
“That’s why we have a preseason, why we have a training camp. You learn from those mistakes and move forward. But overall, I feel like we have a raw talent in the quarterback room and we’ll be good to go.”
Thursday’s game will give Haskins yet another opportunity to grow, as he builds towards eventually taking the reins in Washington.