Earlier this offseason, Ron Rivera had a message for Dwayne Haskins. The Redskins coach told his quarterback to trust him.
The conversation happened as rumors swirled around the possibility of Washington adding another player at Haskins’ position. Publicly, Rivera didn’t dismiss the idea of using the second overall pick on a quarterback like Tua Tagovailoa, and the Redskins were also linked to veteran passers like Philip Rivers and Cam Newton.
Ultimately, Haskins listened to his coach.
“I did (trust him) so it worked out,” Haskins said on NBC Sports Washington’s “Redskins Talk” podcast.
In the interview, Haskins said he wasn’t worried about the Redskins’ drafting Tagovailoa with the second overall pick. Washington selected pass rusher Chase Young instead, and Rivera admitted after the draft that drafting Tagovailoa was never a realistic possibility.
With the first wave of free agency and the draft over, the Redskins’ only noteworthy move at quarterback was acquiring Kyle Allen, Newton’s former backup in Carolina who also has experience starting. Even then, that deal seemed to benefit Haskins as Rivera said the 23-year-old will go into the team’s training camp as the starter.
It’s Haskins’ job to lose, which the quarterback realizes. And it has him fired up.
“I definitely feel that energy, man,” Haskins said. “I definitely have that urgency. I’m itching.
“But I don’t want to say too much,” he said, laughing.
Haskins was careful to set expectations. After all, Rivera has said he wants the quarterback to become a leader and the 23-year-old has appeared conscience of the fact that these last few months have been a test of his character.
Throughout his rookie season, Haskins’ work ethic was occasionally questioned. There was talk about whether the quarterback truly knew the playbook, while reports resurfaced that the coaching staff wasn’t thrilled with the front office’s choice to draft the quarterback.
For Haskins, the year did not go as planned. In a piece for the team’s website, Haskins admitted to wondering why the NFL “wasn’t easy,” given he had thrown 50 touchdowns at Ohio State the year prior. But Haskins recalled a two-hour midseason conversation with quarterback Alex Smith, who told him “of course it wasn’t going to be easy” learning a new system in a league full of pros. The advice helped, he said.
Haskins, though, closed the year strong. Now, the quarterback is learning a new system under offensive coordinator Scott Turner.
If there is something that can cause Haskins to lose the starting job, it’s a lack of knowledge of the playbook. Allen, too, already knows the offense as he spent last year with Turner in Carolina.
But Haskins said he’s installing new plays four times per week, holding virtual video calls with Turner, new quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese and the quarterback room. He added that his experience in the NFL has made it a smoother transition.
“A lot of the terms are different, as far as words and concepts, but what you’re learning is still the same as far as … quick game concepts,” Haskins said. “It’s not necessarily as hard to pick it up because it’s a different language. It definitely helps having learned an NFL offense prior to grasp it faster.”
Haskins said he’s excited about the team’s new additions on offense, third-rounder Antonio Gibson and fourth-rounder Antonio Gandy-Golden. Haskins has also kept in touch with his teammates remotely, staying in contact with veterans like Landon Collins and Adrian Peterson.
Haskins said he’s looking forward to the day when they can all meet up again.
“I feel really confident and have guys that believe in me,” Haskins said. “I think we’re going to have a good year this year.”
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