The pathway is there for franchise quarterback Dwayne Haskins
Dwayne Haskins had an up and down debut season. He was drafted by a team with a Head Coach that didn’t want him. Then thrown to the wolves in his first regular season action with virtually no first team practice reps Add in operating in an offense that was about as modern and cutting edge as a fax machine, it’s little wonder that the former Ohio State Buckeye struggled.
It would have been easy for Haskins confidence to be irretrievably destroyed given the hand he was dealt. But as the final quarter of the season developed, his game improved markedly before a season ending injury in Week 16.
The early question marks around his work ethic and attitude added to the negative perception of him. Many experts were openly advocating for Washington to draft Tua Tagovailoa or sign free agent Cam Newton. However, new Head Coach Ron Rivera did neither and appears to have put his faith in the sophomore signal caller.
Fueled by Rivera’s encouragement and clear requirements of what he wanted to see from his QB. Dwayne appears to have done everything possible to prepare for the coming season. Haskins has lost 20 pounds in the offseason. This indicates a dedication to his craft that will also hopefully have transferred to the film room learning a far more 21st century NFL offense.
Dwayne Haskins has a lot to prove with the 2020 season approaching. But he has all the tools to succeed. The new coaching staff, particularly Offensive Coordinator, Scott Turner has a crucial role to play in creating the right situations and schemes to allow their QB to maximize his potential. Here are 5 things that they can do to get the best from Haskins in 2020.
Use more play action
Last year Washington ranked 23rd in the NFL using play action only 32% of the time in the first 3 quarters of games (31% with Haskins). The League average was 36%.
The difference is significant when comparing how Haskins performed with and without play action in the first 3 quarters. Haskins averaged 10 yards per attempt, throwing 2 touchdowns against 0 interceptions with a quarterback rating of 121.0 with play action. When no play action was involved the yards per attempt dropped to 6, with 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions and a quarterback rating of 70.0
New Offensive Coordinator Scott Turner’s offense in Carolina ranked 5th in play action on early downs in the first 3 quarters last season. Turner would be smart to look at the data and focus on the things that Haskins showed he can do well.
Utilize pre-snap motion
Pre-snap motion can cause a defense to show their hand, and any advantage that Haskins can use to get ahead of the opponent should be maximized.
Despite running an archaic and predictable offense last season, Washington was above average in their use of pre-snap motion. Similar to the results for use of play action, Haskins was noticeably more successful when pre-snap motion was used. His yards per attempt of 7.4 was nearly a full yard higher than the 6.5 average without pre-snap motion. Additionally, his quarterback rating was 98, a full 20 points over the 78 rating when pre-snap motion was not used. Finally, his touchdown to interception ratio was 4:1 with pre-snap motion and 3:2 without.
The data sample for both play action and pre-snap motion for Haskins is relatively small. But there is enough evidence to suggest that both variations make a noticeable difference to his output. With more experience, the expectation should be that Haskins will be able to recognize defenses and shift protections better than in 2019. Play calling that incorporates a higher percentage of play action and pre-snap motions would appear to be another way of aiding his development.
Be less predictable
The 2019 Washington football team’s offensive play calling was extremely predictable. Game script often forced Washington to pass more in the second half of games when trailing. In the 1st half they were 29th in early down (1st and 2nd) pass rate. This led to 3rd and long situations and the inevitable low conversion rate (30th in the first half of games) and a first half offensive efficiency that was better than only 4 teams. Washington was behind on the scoreboard, and chasing the game, which it was ill-equipped to do.
More balanced play calling on early downs and better use of running backs and tight ends will also help take the pressure off Haskins, giving him some easy completions. Scott Turner featured running backs and tight ends consistently in Carolina, although having Christian McCaffrey clearly helps in that regard. The Panthers offense passed on 1st down 54 percent of the time, the fifth highest in the league which suggests more variety may be on the way.
Washington drafted Antonio Gibson as a potential hybrid running back/wide receiver who can line up in the backfield, in the slot, and as an H-Back. The addition of pass catching running back JD McKissic will also give Haskins another viable option from the backfield. Unfortunately, the tight end group looks weak. Turner will have to scheme with what he has or hope that a new addition comes in to offer another option.
Haskins only started 7 games in 2019. He had an encouraging final 2 games where he completed 31/43 for 394 yards with 4 touchdown’s and 0 interceptions. Dwayne will have to learn a new offensive system without the benefits of any live offseason reps and no guarantee of what training camp will look like.
To compound the difficulties, Kelvin Harmon has torn his ACL and will miss the season.
The lack of practice reps may lead to problems with timing and execution. For Haskins and a young and inexperienced support cast (apart from Adrian Peterson), that process may take even longer.
Fans and media need to realize the challenges that Haskins will face this season and be patient. A commodity that is in increasingly short supply in the instant gratification culture that we now live in. Lets not demand that Kyle Allen replace him after a couple of shaky appearances. Growing pains are expected from Haskins while playing on a team that is expected to struggle. He must be allowed to play the season without the threat of being replaced hanging over him.
Let Haskins be Haskins
There has been a lot said about Dwayne Haskins on and off the field. His work habits and maturity were questioned last year. It’s a pretty safe bet to say he has learned his lesson from that one.
Dwayne is 23 years old. Like the majority of his generation uses social media regularly. He has his own personal photographer who documents his every move. This includes videos of his offseason workouts have been prominent across social media platforms all off season.
As long as none of it impacts on his focus, his work, and his relationship with his teammates then it shouldn’t be an issue. It is who he is. And to some extent he is still exploring who he is as he develops as a man and a leader. His attendance at a Black Lives Matter rally in Washington, D.C. shows he has an interest in the issues facing society. He should be allowed to grow and develop and not have his every move forensically examined.
These 5 steps do not guarantee that Dwayne Haskins will develop into the long term answer for Washington. But they will give him every opportunity. The rest will then be up to him.
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