For the regular-season finale between Dallas and Washington, we spoke with Hogs Haven for some insight into the enemy.
Blogging The Boys: What has Dwayne Haskins brought to the Washington offense and how will things change with his absence this week?
Hogs Haven: He’s been a work in progress the entire season. He started out looking pretty brutal week 4 against the Giants when he was forced into the starting role after a Case Keenum injury. He was raw in basically all aspects of being a QB, from throwing mechanics, to cadence when calling plays, to going through progressions, to command of the playbook. He has improved in all of those areas as the season progressed; not just improving if you look back on the season as a whole, but visibly improving in each game played. He finally looked like a starting NFL QB in week 15 against the Eagles, and really looked like the engine of the offense, throwing for 261 yards and 2 TDs, with a 121.3 passer rating. He was on his way to having an even better performance last week against the Giants before getting injured at the start of the second half. Overall, it looks like the switch has finally turned on for him. He still needs to work on his throwing mechanics (particularly footwork), but he finally looks like the best QB on our roster and a starting NFL QB.
In terms of what he brings that Case Keenum doesn’t, I’d say it’s a big arm, ball protection, and leadership. Haskins can throw with touch to all parts of the field and throws it deep with seemingly little effort. Indeed, I think part of his problem with footwork is that he could throw it deep purely based on arm strength in college, so he didn’t need to develop his footwork quite as well (leading to inaccuracy in the short and intermediate areas of the field when he doesn’t set his feet). He’s also been very efficient throwing the ball, with few turnovers for a rookie (7 INTs all season). And in terms of leadership, there just seems to be something different about how the team plays with him under center. It might just be my subjective impression, but I thought the team played a bit harder for him than they did our other QBs, and never seemed to quit, despite the lost season. I expect all of that to change with Case Keenum starting this week. He doesn’t have a big arm (though he isn’t afraid to try and chuck it deep), he’s much less careful with the football, and just like earlier in the year, I expect him to end the game with good fantasy stats, but in a loss.
BTB: Who are some of the rumored candidates for the Washington head coaching position and which direction do you hope they go in?
HH: It all depends on what happens with Team President Bruce Allen and the future of the Team President position. If Bruce Allen is still in power, it will probably be someone he has worked with previously. He was hoping to get Mike Tomlin (a Tampa Bay connection of Bruce Allen) and owner Dan Snyder reportedly offered to trade for Tomlin after Jay Gruden was fired, but the Steelers weren’t interested in his offer. It is possible the team tries again to get Tomlin in the offseason, though I doubt the results would be any different. Now Bruce Allen is reportedly interested in Stanford head coach David Shaw, though the team has reportedly been “surprised” at the pushback they’ve received when reaching out to head coach candidates due to the current power structure.
If/when Bruce Allen is fired, the candidates will probably depend on who replaces him. If Alex Smith ends up with a front office role as some suspect, Eric Bieniemy and Urban Meyer would be possibilities due to their connections to Alex Smith. The vertical passing attack Bieniemy installed at Kansas City would complement Haskins big arm, and Urban Meyer was Haskins coach at Ohio State, so they would also be good for the QB. Redskins VP of Player Personnel Doug Williams also has ties to Todd Bowles, so that would be a possibility.
I’m personally hoping they don’t go with a former NFL head coach like Todd Bowles or Mike McCarthy. The only former NFL head coach I’d be happy with would be Gary Kubiak, who has many years of winning seasons despite never having a QB with the Texans, won a Super Bowl as head coach of the Broncos, and has reinvigorated the Vikings offense. I think he’s the safest pick at head coach with Super Bowl upside, but a lot would depend on his medicals. Outside of Kubiak, I’d be excited if Matt Rhule or Dave Toub were named head coach, with good reasons why in the linked articles. None of them have been linked to the team though. I think a lot should depend on the interview. If a coach comes in with a clear plan to maximize our player strengths and develop the young talent, then I’d take him over a big name candidate who doesn’t seem to know the roster or have a compelling plan for how to succeed with it. That’s how dark horse candidates like Mike Tomlin and Sean McVay got their chances.
BTB: What are some of the changes that need to be made either on the roster or among management before next season?
HH: First and foremost, Bruce Allen needs to be fired (or allowed to resign). Everything starts with that move, and a lot will depend on who replaces him. Even though we’ve been drafting reasonably well, Bruce has mismanaged the team in such ways as bringing a $36M cap penalty on the team, letting Kirk Cousins walk in FA for only a 3rd round comp pick, fostering an increasingly toxic relationship with Trent Williams, and a litany of other problems. If and when that happens, I think it’s likely they go with internal promotions to Team President and GM (a role that has been left vacant for 2 years). Either Doug Williams or Eric Schaffer would make sense to promote to Team President, and Kyle Smith is the fan favorite to promote to GM. I think internal promotions make sense because the team has been drafting well the last few years, it’s largely higher-level mismanagement and poor coaching that have caused the team to under perform. Also, many of the better-qualified external candidates may not want the job. The most important qualification for any future Team President or GM is that Dan Snyder trusts him enough to stay out of football operations, which is another reason for an internal promotion. Dan only seems to trust big names, former Redskins greats, and people he’s worked with a lot before.
The coaching staff will probably need to be entirely overhauled. There are a few assistant coaches that might be worth keeping, but I’d just let the next head coach choose who he wants to work with. In terms of roster, some of our expensive veterans (Josh Norman, Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis) need to be cut, and some others (Trent Williams, maybe Ryan Kerrigan) should be traded. Brandon Scherff might walk in FA depending on what his contract demands are. If we had a competent Team President/GM, Brandon Scherff would have either been extended or a trade worked out in advance of free agency, but alas. Last, something needs to change on the Redskins medical staff and/or strength and conditioning team. We’ve been one of the most injured teams for many years now, and the team will never survive the playoffs if all of our good players are on IR in January. If we can’t think of anything better, we should fire all of the strength and conditioning and medical staff in the hopes that something changes.
On the plus side, we will probably have the #2 pick in the draft. If we can’t leverage that to help the team, either by drafting Chase Young or trading down for more picks, then I don’t know what to tell you. Next year’s draft will also be pretty critical in determining what the future looks like in Washington.
BTB: Since Dallas and Washington played back in Week 2, which parts of the team have improved and are the strength of the club, and which parts have degraded either through poor play or injury and are real vulnerabilities?
HH: Not much has improved because injuries have sapped the team of many key starters at several position groups. Up until recently, I would have said Haskins is an improvement at QB, the offense is finally rolling, and the defense seems to be rallying. But now Haskins is injured, Josh Norman has been benched and our other starting CBs are on IR, so many of our starters in the secondary will be street free agents. Ryan Kerrigan is on IR, Brandon Scherff is on IR, Landon Collins and Terry McLaurin are DNP, it’s honestly hard to keep track of who has what injury. At this point though, I would say our secondary is so banged up, you should be able to pass with ease. Our DL is pretty healthy, so running may be more difficult, but who knows if the defense quits with nothing left to play for? On offense, we’ll have Case Keenum again at QB. He doesn’t quit and he tends to look good statistically, but he’ll be down several starters on offense since the last time we played and again, the team has nothing to play for at this point.
BTB: How do you see this game playing out and what will be the final score?
HH: I would be very surprised if it’s not a route in favor of the Cowboys. The Redskins are very banged up and have nothing left to play for this season. If the Cowboys somehow manage to lose this game, you will have a lot of soul-searching to do, because it will be more than one coach or player’s fault. In terms of score, I don’t know, 31 - 17 Cowboys. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a sneakily high-scoring game, because the Redskins secondary is full of street free agents and Keenum tends to put up a lot of garbage time stats.
Thanks for the knowledge, Hogs Haven.