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Sunday, November 17, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

LANDOVER — Quarterback Dwayne Haskins started at home for the first time Sunday.

The outcome was similar to the last game Case Keenum started at FedEx Field. There was also a semblance to the last game Colt McCoy started here. Ditto for the most recent home starts by Josh Johnson, Mark Sanchez and Alex Smith.


It was another win for the visitors and another sad 60 minutes of football for the hosts. Only the names (New York Jets) and final score (34-17) changed.

You have to go all the way back to Oct. 21 of last season — when Smith started and won against Dallas — to find a different result at FedEx Field, regardless of the signal-caller in burgundy and gold. Since then, the Redskins and their carousel of QBs are 0-9 in their not-so-friendly confines.

But in one significant aspect, this latest defeat was unlike the others since Smith’s right leg was mangled Nov. 18 against Houston. This time, the Redskins started a quarterback who conceivably might man the position for 10 years.

Suffice it to say he has quite a journey ahead. “Life is hard,” Haskins said after his home debut. “I’ve got to work harder.”

He’s not the only one. Just the one with all eyes — and hopes — on him.

Bright spots were few and sporadic, mostly limited to garbage time after the contest was decided. He passed for 95 yards through three quarters, taking six sacks compared to his 12 completions. His numbers would’ve look much better if a scintillating, 67-yard completion to Terry McLaurin wasn’t wiped out by a holding penalty.

No surprise here, but the rookie is going to need a lot of help from his coaches and teammates, assistance that wasn’t plentiful against the Jets.

The defense yielded touchdowns on two of New York’s first three possessions, the latter score coming after cornerback Jimmy Moreland was penalized for roughing the kicker on a successful field goal that the Jets took off the board. “Just way too many mistakes,” interim coach Bill Callahan said.

Making Haskins the starter wasn’t one of them, no matter how shaky he looked for large portions of the afternoon.

The Redskins trailed 34-3 and their touchdown drought had reached 16 quarters Haskins connected on short pass to Derrius Guice. He took the ball 45 yards down the right sideline, the first NFL touchdown for both participants.

The other late score was set up by McLaurin’s incredible, 41-yard reception with three minutes left. McLaurin timed it perfectly, outleaping and outfighting a Jets defender to catch the 50-50 ball from his college quarterback. It was a glimpse of what can happen if Haskins and McLaurin reprise the magic they created at Ohio State.

“No matter what the coverage was, Terry was getting the ball,” said Haskins, who finished with 19 completions on 35 attempts for 214 yards. “That’s just him making plays and being the beast that he is.”

If everything works as planned, Haskins, Guice and McLaurin will become Washington’s “triplets,” a QB-RB-WR combination that keeps opposing defenses off guard. But their development will take longer if fourth quarters like Sunday arrive too often, with Guice having been limited to six carries and McLaurin just two targets.

Callahan and offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell want to emphasize the running attack, which seems a bit archaic, but whatever. Granted, Guice was playing just his second career game and his first since the season opener, but he needs to be more heavily involved moving forward. Likewise for McLaurin, who has proven to be the team’s most dynamic offensive weapon.

Haskins suggested that the play calls were more to his liking later in the game. The Jets‘ softer approach to defense helped, but he also looked more comfortable. He and the coaching staff have to find a balance that suits everyone’s desires.

“It’s tough,” Haskins said of speaking up. “As a young dude with a new voice, you have to earn their trust. You have to earn that ability to ask for what you see out there. As the game went on, they started listening to me and I have to keep earning that.”

Each week presents him with a different challenge. Not just opponents and their schemes, but also digesting lessons from the prior game and using them to his advantage. The path from here looks as hazardous as the road behind, with Washington likely to be underdogs in every game except the New York Giants’ visit on Dec. 22.

Room for growth abounds for Haskins, but also the strategy, the offensive line and the defense. Haskins might never reach the point where he can carry a team by himself, but he’s certainly not there yet, not even close.

Fans might have to overlook final scores for the remainder of this season, something they’ve been forced to do anyway with Keenum, McCoy, Johnson and Sanchez at quarterback.

But for the first time since Smith went down — almost a year to the day — fans at FedEx Field saw long-term hope under center.

That wasn’t enough for a win, but it was good for a start.

⦁ Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays.


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