Haskins turning heads at Redskins minicamp
ASHBURN, Va. -- The scene was different for a Washington Redskins rookie minicamp, with three dozen or so media members attending. It's been seven years since they entertained that sort of gathering for a rookie minicamp. But, as in the days of Robert Griffin III, the Redskins have a quarterback as their latest symbol of hope: Dwayne Haskins.
The Redskins don't yet know if Haskins will start this season, as coach Jay Gruden has said there will be an open competition for the No. 1 job. They do know, however, that after two days of rookie minicamp, Haskins has impressed.
"It's been a treat," Gruden said. "He's made some throws that turn your head without a doubt."
Added Doug Williams, the Redskins' senior vice president of player personnel: "It don't take long for the ball to get from Point A to Point B."
The Redskins, who drafted Haskins with the 15th overall pick, are preaching patience. That doesn't mean he won't challenge for the starting job, however, as he was selected that high for a reason.
They know there's a learning curve for Haskins, and two days of work against other rookies doesn't lend itself to grand conclusions. On Saturday, in his first work with media present, Haskins showed off his live arm.
Gruden said Haskins threw better Friday than he did Saturday, when he missed on several throws -- some were high, some were behind, and others were on target. During one-on-one work, however, Haskins connected on a number of red-zone passes -- including a perfectly placed fade to former Ohio State teammate Terry McLaurin in the corner of the end zone. In full-team drills, Haskins fumbled one snap from under center.
In 7-on-7 work, Haskins had to dump off multiple times. After a number of plays, one coach or another would offer instruction. He made some throws with anticipation, the ball arriving as a receiver would turn around. He threw deep, though one was intercepted.
"It's challenging; you want it to be challenging," Haskins said. "The biggest thing is trying to apply the meetings to the field. [There have been] 50 plays put in so far; a lot of stuff going into it. It's fun to throw the ball around again. You're going to make mistakes. The biggest thing is I rebounded from them and look forward to getting better."
Haskins was patient at Ohio State, sitting behind J.T. Barrett for two years before getting his chance this past season. It remains to be seen if he'll need to be that patient in Washington alongside quarterbacks Case Keenum and Colt McCoy, neither of whom has a firm grip on the starting job.
"We're going to throw the ball out there and let them compete," Gruden said. "He obviously displayed enough skill set to warrant the 15th pick, and we'll give him an opportunity to see how far he can take this thing without a doubt."
Gruden has said he does not like a three-man competition for the starting job because it's hard to divide the reps to give each quarterback enough of a chance.
"The most important thing in the next couple weeks is, let's see how far we can push this guy," Gruden said. "Let's see if there is a chance he can win the job. If we feel like he's coming along slower, then we have to maybe push Case or push Colt. But if we feel like [Haskins] is coming along and he's firing and he's comfortable, then we'll play it out and see what happens."
Haskins, 22, said he'll take the same approach he did at Ohio State.
"I'll be ready for whatever the coaches want from me, whether that's starting right away or next year or through the season," Haskins said. "I'll prepare like I'm the starter."
But he also admitted waiting two years to play there wasn't easy -- and he shone a light on his mentality.
"Definitely hard," Haskins said. "Every competitor wants to play, but you have to know it's for the team, it's bigger than you. And if the coaches feel I'm the best option to win games this year, I'll be more than excited. If he says I'm not ready, I'll make sure I'll be ready."
The Redskins want to improve Haskins' footwork. They want him to get comfortable dropping back from under center, something he didn't do with the Buckeyes. They want him to get used to resetting his feet under pressure.
"With the quarterback, it starts with the basics," Gruden said. "He's a guy that didn't call a lot of plays in the huddle. So we're talking about breaking the huddle and calling plays in the huddle, and the snap count, getting guys lined up, going through his progressions, his footwork -- not only in the passing game but in the running game. There's a lot thrown at him. It's a long process, but he's a bright guy. I was impressed."
Williams, who quarterbacked the Redskins to victory in Super Bowl XXII, said he liked how Haskins handled himself at the line of scrimmage, was in control and had players aligned in the right areas.
"You can see he had a lot of work on that in the offseason," Williams said.
It was enough to whet the sporting appetite of the 100 or so special-invitation fans who attended the workout. They lined the sidewalk outside the Redskins' bubble for autographs afterward, most waiting for Haskins, who was the final player to leave.
The fans snapped pictures, asked Haskins questions about playing in his hometown and shouted his name -- "Mr. Haskins!" -- to get an autograph. It's the most buzz generated by a Redskins quarterback since Griffin.
But all Haskins cares about, he said, is what happens on the field.
"The biggest thing I need to do is play well on Sundays, and that's all I'm looking forward to," Haskins said. "All the other stuff comes when it needs to."