The time has finally come; Dwayne Haskins will get his first career start this weekend. Although Callahan is reluctant to permanently hand over the reins to Haskins, a successful outing against Buffalo could sway opinions, good or bad, for Head Coach Bill Callahan and the Redskins brass.
Callahan previously stated that Case Keenum will return as the starter after he’s cleared from concussion protocol. The veteran signal caller has also dealt with foot, shoulder and hand injuries thus far, in addition to suffering a concussion versus Minnesota. In saying that, his long-term durability has already been put into question by many around the league.
Having a full week of practice with the starting offense and going against the starting defense should go a long way towards Haskins’ maturation. Coaches simply need to put Haskins in better situations, as opposed to the two games in which he came off the bench with the team trailing. Playing to the rookie’s strengths will be the keys to success for Washington.
Utilizing the Run Game
The run game can be a quarterback’s best friend and it can also add different dimensions to the play calling. We’ve witnessed multiple teams around the league use more college concepts to catch defenses off guard. Employing flea flickers and various trick plays out of the run game has become a common scene. With little film on Haskins, this could catch a savvy Buffalo defense by surprise. In these types of formations, deploying rookie receiver Steven Sims Jr should be a priority, since he’s had success on a few runs this year.
Utilizing RPO concepts could also keep the Bills on their toes, giving Offensive Coordinator Kevin O’Connell more options in the passing game. Using RPO also gives Haskins the ability to pull the ball out, instead of handing it off, if he sees a matchup he likes.
Lastly, an effective run game will lead to play action, which bodes well for the team’s deep threat Terry McLaurin. The ultimate goal is to establish the run for Callahan, but in doing so, it will keep third downs manageable and will pose a true threat for play action against an aggressive Bills’ defense.
Taking a Page from Ohio State
Although Haskins displayed a strong arm at OSU, utilizing the lateral passing game led to huge gains for the Buckeyes’ offense. Having familiarity with his former teammate Terry McLaurin’s tendencies, should go a long way. McLaurin has been used sparingly in the screen game, but shows the ability to lay the wood as a blocker. He also displays the breakaway speed to take short passes to the house.
Using McLaurin & Sims Jr’s speed on bubble screens will open up the offense. In turn, it could relieve pressure and lower the chance for turnovers with higher percentage throws. This strategy could lead to big gains with minimal risk.
Linebackers & DB’s will be forced to play closer to the line, which should open up passing lanes in the middle of the field. A primary knock on Haskins has been his ability to read coverages and make the appropriate adjustment or calls at the line. Employing this game plan could get him into a rhythm and possibly slow things down.
Continuing to put Haskins in shotgun is their best bet, but also asking him to throw “hot reads” will allow him to focus on the portion of the field that isn’t employing pressure. Although minimal, there will still be a level of reading the field for Haskins. However, coaches can focus on cutting the field in half for the young quarterback, while also getting the ball out of his hands in half the time.
Allowing Haskins to Use His Feet
As previously mentioned, when discussing the run game, implementing RPO concepts would be a way to get Haskins in a rhythm. Although Haskins had success with Post & Mesh concepts in college, rolling him out of the pocket should also help give him more time to survey the field. Haskins is a true pocket passer, but he also showed ability in limited snaps to make plays with his feet and utilize his 6’5″ frame to gain yards. Advocating for Haskins to become a runner is not ideal but this is a strategy Pittsburgh implemented during Ben Roethlisberger‘s rookie season, while still leaning heavily on the run game.
This is a defining game for the young signal caller. With this being his first start and first full week of practice, having a big game with minimal hiccups could go a long way to gaining a leadership role among his teammates. It starts with coaches scaling down the play calling verbiage for the rookie, which many teams have done through the years. It’s time for coaches to adjust their system to Haskins in order to get the best out of him. In the end, the only way to know what Haskins can be, is to focus on what he does well in order to establish any kind of identity for this team this year and beyond.
By Adam Aniba
Follow on Twitter @TheBandGreport
More from the Burgundy and Gold Report….
*Washington’s Dilemma; Not Rushing to Judgment on Haskins
*A New Look Offense for Washington and How Haskins Factors In
*Establishing an Identity Starts with Admitting There’s a Problem
*The Emergence of Terry McLaurin; The Buckeye Shines Bright
*Steven Sims Jr. Spotlight
*The Tar Heel Steal