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Sunday, December 15, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

LANDOVER — Well, there’s no turning back now. No more questions about who will be the quarterback for the Washington Redskins tomorrow and for the foreseeable future.

Despite Sunday’s 37-27 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles before a house full of Eagles fans at Ghost Town Field, Dwayne Haskins had the kind of performance — one that could be praised, not rationalized, explained or defended — that everyone had been waiting for.


Well, not everyone, perhaps.

Redskins interim coach Bill Callahan, normally a Chatty Cathy at his postgame press conferences, acted as if he would have rather chewed broken glass than speak to the play of his young quarterback Sunday, in a bizarre performance where he refused to directly speak to Haskins‘ play, despite numerous questions.

If there was day to feel good about Haskins, this was it.

The rookie quarterback looked confident, armed with a game plan from offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell that attacked the Philadelphia defense aggressively by passing on early downs instead of grinding it out with the running game — Callahan’s blueprint since he took over for Jay Gruden in early October.

“Kevin had a great idea of what he wanted to do versus the Eagles,” Haskins said. “Knowing the weakness of the defense, and, of course, the offensive line did a great job picking it up and seeing those great plays, needing to make them, and getting the job done early.”

Haskins completed 19 of 28 passes for 261 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He had command of the offense on the field and was poised enough to take off on a read option run on a key third and one late in the third quarter. That 23-yard run put the ball on the Philadelphia 14 and would lead to Adrian Peterson’s 10-yard touchdown run, giving Washington a 21-17 lead going into the fourth quarter.

“I knew they (the Eagles) were going to come,” Haskins said. “They had a linebacker on the end instead of a defensive end. I knew he was going to jet up the field, so I tried to get as much as I could.”

The Eagles (7-7) would regain the lead 24-21 on a two-yard touchdown pass from Carson Wentz to Zach Ertz. The Redskins (3-11) would tie it with a 53-yard Dustin Hopkins field goal halfway through the final quarter, then Washington took the lead on another Hopkins field goal, this one a 43-yarder.

But with five minutes left, Wentz took the Eagles on an 11-play, 75 drive that ended with a four-yard scoring pass to Greg Ward for a 31-27 Eagles lead with 26 seconds left. The game would end with Haskins fumbling while dropping back for a Hail Mary and Philadelphia linebacker Nigel Bradham taking the recovery 47 yards for the final, meaningless score.

That’s all background noise in the big scheme of things.

The development of Haskins at quarterback — that’s what this franchise needs to focus on, and that project took a big step forward Sunday.

Haskins, who’s been as uneven at the postgame podium this year as he’s been in the pocket, even showed improvement there. He modestly downplayed his progress since his first appearance in a 24-3 loss to the New York Giants at the end of September.

“I’m nowhere close to where I want to be,” Haskins said. “That should be an average game for me. I will continue to work on it and get better. I know we came up short. We did a lot of good things that we can continue to work on for next week and bring it in for the last home game of the season, and hopefully, we come out with a win.”

Other than evaluating Haskins, there’s really not a lot at stake for the Redskins this season.

But you wouldn’t know that from Callahan.

“I thought it was just a really good effort by all of our players,” Callahan responded to one question about Haskins.

“I thought we just came out with a good plan and executed early, which was great,” he said when asked another question about Haskins. “But in the end, we just didn’t get it done, wasn’t good enough.”

Finally, asked if he thought Haskins‘ confidence grew with the early success he had in the game, the coach said, “I don’t know. I would have to look back at it. I can’t tell you right now, but I’ll have to look at the film and evaluate all his early plays, things of that nature. I think we can always learn. We can always get better, that’s for sure.”

Maybe it was the raw emotion of that last Eagles touchdown that still resonated. Maybe it was all the palace intrigue with the presence of Haskins‘ former Ohio State coach, Urban Meyer, in owner Dan Snyder’s private box at the stadium.

But while things finally looked right for Dwayne Haskins Sunday, something seemed wrong for Bill Callahan.

⦁ Hear Thom Loverro on 106.7 The Fan Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings and on the Kevin Sheehan podcast Tuesdays and Thursdays. 


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