By BRYCE ROSSLER
Dwayne Haskins’ rookie season did not start well. Technically, it started on the bench behind Case Keenum, but it really didn’t start well when he threw three interceptions in relief of Keenum against the division rival Giants.
It didn’t end well, either. Haskins exited Washington’s Week 16 contest against the Cowboys with an ankle injury and rested for a lame duck game the following week.
But it really didn’t end well when people punctuated his season with speculation about whether the franchise should have given Haskins the hook and taken Tua Tagovailoa with the second overall pick. Of course, there was precedent for this considering we weren’t yet a year removed from the Cardinals defunding the Josh Rosen experiment in favor of Kyler Murray, but Haskins also wasn’t unequivocally the worst rookie passer in the Total Points era.
It’s important to distinguish outcomes from processes, especially when it comes to rookie quarterbacks. The results weren’t always there and he could have accelerated his reads at times, especially when the picture changed post-snap, but Haskins’ process was sound most of the time. He did a good job of identifying defensive structures pre-snap and generally had the right idea of where to go with the ball.
Take, for example, this play against Buffalo in his first NFL start. It’s 2nd & 6 and Washington is on its own 44-yard line. The Bills present a quarters look pre-snap and stay in it post-snap. Haskins has a ‘snag’ or ‘spot’ concept to the boundary, which theoretically does not fare very well against Cover 4.
He initially looks to the boundary side but quickly comes off once he confirms it’s quarters. Since Tremaine Edmunds opens to the boundary, Haskins knows he has McLaurin isolated against Lorenzo Alexander and takes his chances. It’s a tight window throw and it’s ultimately broken up, but he demonstrated quick processing, got the ball out before pressure arrived, and gave his receiver a chance to make a play.
In the NFL, you win some and you lose some. Haskins lost here, but it’s a good rep nevertheless.
The biggest thing that affected Haskins’ game as a rookie was his footwork. Maintaining a base when navigating the pocket, quick game setup, and effectively resetting to targets later in his progressions created issues with accuracy for him.
His completion percentage over expectation (CPOE) of -6.4% and his on-target rate of 75.4% ranked 34th out of 34 quarterbacks with at least 200 dropbacks, respectively. However, these issues with footwork appeared on his college tape, so growing pains were to be expected and are not cause to hit the panic button on him. It’s a lot easier to correct a quarterback’s footwork than to teach him how to read a defense, which Haskins has shown he’s able to do.
Furthermore, sacks really hampered Haskins’ efficiency from a Total Points perspective. He endured the second-highest sack rate (11.9%) among quarterbacks with at least 200 dropbacks. Although quarterbacks do contribute to their own sack numbers, Haskins looks much better when you examine just his attempts.
After removing sacks, his 17.9 passing Total Points Added/100 Dropbacks ranks 18th. That put him just below Kyler Murray (18.3, 17th) and above all of the following: Tom Brady (16.5, 22nd), Gardner Minshew (16.1, 23rd), Josh Allen (15.3, 24th), Daniel Jones (14.0, 25th), Sam Darnold (13.6, 26th), and Baker Mayfield (10.0, 31st). It was also better than Drew Lock’s 13.6, but Lock was a nonqualifier.
Washington may have been uniquely situated to take Tagovailoa, but Haskins was more efficient as a passer than many members of both the 2018 and 2019 quarterback classes. There are reasons for trepidation with him moving forward – specifically, the lapses in accuracy that his footwork causes – but he demonstrated that he can handle the NFL game mentally and his first-read accuracy is much better than that of first-round fixer-uppers of drafts past.
As Haskins tries to rebuild from the ground up, the organization must do so with him, and they appear to be ready to do that. For now, I think they made the right choice, but only time will tell.