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The case for building around Washington Redskins QB Dwayne Haskins

Between free agency and the draft, there has been much ink dedicated to the idea that the Washington Redskins will look to either replace Dwayne Haskins or at least give him competition ahead of the 2020 NFL season. 

Head coach Ron Rivera has no ties to Haskins, who was drafted by the old regime, and this offseason has been an incredibly quarterback-rich environment with the draft still to come. Washington’s only move so far was to trade for Kyle Allen from the Carolina Panthers in a move that speaks simply to familiarity and contingency, not competition.

At No. 2 overall in the draft, the Redskins could take Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa in a move reminiscent of what the Arizona Cardinals did a season ago, but there’s another future to consider — what if they believe Dwayne Haskins can be good, and what if they believe they’re set at quarterback?

The rush to write off Haskins has been strange in an era where the slightest glimmer of upside at the position usually has teams clinging desperately to potential, often to the detriment of reality. 

It’s not that the move to draft Tua would be, in isolation, a bad one — until you are certain you have a viable starting quarterback, the data says you should keep swinging — it’s just that the difference in attitude that many seem to have toward Haskins compared to the other second-year quarterbacks is difficult to justify.

Kyler Murray showed enough last year to not only convince Cardinals fans that it was the right move to swap Josh Rosen, but also that he is the answer long-term. The New York Giants fans are doing victory laps because of Daniel Jones’ rookie year, and the Jacksonville Jaguars just traded away Nick Foles — a year after handing him a hefty contract — having been sold on the notion that Gardner Minshew is a better bet for the future. Even the Broncos feel they finally have an answer in the form of Drew Lock

Only Minshew had a higher PFF grade than Haskins last season, and the three first-rounders plus Minshew all had a grade between 64.2 and 70.3 overall.

Obviously, Haskins did it on fewer snaps, so that grade is inherently more fragile — he had around half the dropbacks that Minshew, Jones and Murray did as rookies — but it’s still curious that the reaction to the performances is so different.

WHY IS THIS THE CASE?

Name PFF grade Dropbacks Big-time throws Turnover-worthy plays BTT% TWP%
Gardner Minshew 70.3 556 18 19 3.6% 3.8%
Dwayne Haskins 67.6 245 8 5 3.7% 2.3%
Daniel Jones 65.7 527 20 31 4.1% 6.3%
Kyler Murray 64.2 620 23 18 4.0% 3.1%

Part of the explanation comes from the rough start Haskins had to his NFL career. He looked poor in training camp, and there were reports that he was struggling to learn the team’s plays, which had been the thing keeping him off the field until Case Keenum was concussed and the switch was forced upon the team.

While Daniel Jones had to fight past Eli Manning to start, Washington had little reason not to turn to Haskins as soon as he was able for it, but they had to be forced into the move. When Haskins did finally first see NFL action, it seemed to be justification for the reluctance to start him in the first place. In just 28 dropbacks across the first two games, he accounted for four of the seven interceptions he threw as a rookie.

At that point, Haskins was fighting the pervasive narrative and fighting an uphill battle to change the story. After his first game, the New York Giants’ Twitter account was calling out draft takes, but Haskins hit the ground with an ugly thump and needed to slowly reverse opinions. The other thing hurting him is that his overall box score numbers from the season look worse than the play-by-play analysis of his game.

He had just seven touchdowns to seven picks, but he actually had fewer turnover-worthy plays than interceptions. Typically, those numbers work in reverse (defenders drop a lot of would-be picks, so the number of interceptions is usually lower than the number of plays that should have been turnovers). Daniel Jones, for example, had 31 turnover-worthy plays compared to just 12 interceptions. Murray had six more, and Minshew had 12 more. Haskins, in fact, was the only rookie passer to end up with more turnovers than turnover-worthy plays, and that skews the narrative.

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