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Dallas @ Washington: “I wouldn’t be surprised if Dwayne Haskins is ready to start mid-season”

A check with a Washington expert gives us some insight into Sunday’s opponent.

NFL: Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

With a game coming up against division rival Washington, we checked in with Hogs Haven to get a feel for this week’s opponent.

Blogging The Boys: What happened last week? Washington was rolling, up 17-0 then a complete turnaround. What were some of the keys to the Eagles comeback?

Hogs Haven: As best I can tell, it was a combination of factors:

We lost 2 DL to injury (Jonathan Allen and Caleb Brantley) in the 1st half. Since we only kept 5 DL after roster cutdowns, that left us with 3 DL for a 3-4 front, which is not ideal. The lack of rotation and huge time of possession disadvantage in the 2nd half really wore the DL down, and they went from allowing very few rushing yards in the 1st half to allowing rushing yards on almost every attempt in the 2nd. The Redskins have brought in 2 more DL for the upcoming game, so we should have a better rotation going forward.

Derrius Guice apparently got injured in the 1st half, but played through it. There was a noticeable dropoff in his burst in the 2nd half, and it may have been due to injury.

The Eagles rested their starters through the preseason, so they may have been shaking off a bit of rust in the first half.

It seems like our defense didn’t gameplan enough for DeSean Jackson. The passing defense actually did a decent job limiting Ertz, Jeffery, and Goedert through much of the game, but DJax roasted us. It seems like the Eagles realized they could just keep passing it to him at the end of the first half and so chose to do that for the rest of the game. If it weren’t for DJax, I think the outcome would have been very different.

Communication in the secondary broke down in the 2nd half, though I don’t know why. On at least one of DJax’s TDs, our DC admitted to getting the playcall in late, resulting in a coverage bust.

Penalties killed our offensive drives in the 2nd half, mostly committed by the offensive line. I don’t know why they started committing so many penalties in the 2nd half as opposed to the 1st, but it happened and it put us in very difficult down and distance situations. As a result, our offensive drives stalled and we lost the time of possession battle in the 2nd half by quite a bit.

BTB: How much will the injuries to Jonathan Allen and Derrius Guice affect the team?

HH: I suspect the injury to Jonathan Allen would be the most impactful, though it is a less severe injury. He was a big part of not just our run defense, but also our ability to pressure the QB. We still have good players on the DL (Daron Payne, Matt Ioannidis), but losing Allen means we won’t be able to rely on a 3 or 4 man rush to both generate pressure and stop the run. We may have to blitz more, which would result in fewer players available in coverage. However, as of my writing this, Allen hasn’t been ruled out yet, so we’ll see.

The injury to Guice will probably be less impactful to the upcoming game, but is a more serious injury and is quite sad for a young, well-liked player who missed last season to injury as well. As of now, Guice had miniscus surgery and will likely be out 6-8 weeks. However, Adrian Peterson is a more than capable replacement. Since only one of them was likely to be active on gameday anyway, I don’t think the injury will affect our ability to run very much. Guice is a more versatile player, but AP is a better pure rusher. I expect the main different to be that we operate out of I-formation more often (AP struggles in shotgun) and throw fewer passes to the RB on 1st and 2nd down, but that we may get more yards on called runs.

In addition to those injuries, the Redskins may be down their starting FS (Montae Nicholson), starting slot CB (Fabian Moreau, who was injured in the preseason), and a starting boundary CB (Quinton Dunbar, who has a minor knee injury and may still play). A backup CB (Greg Stroman) was also just waived injured, so the secondary might end up being a bigger issue than either of the above.

BTB: Are you content with using Case Keenum all season or are you anxious to bring Dwayne Haskins on and get a look at what he can do?

HH: I’m content with starting Case Keenum as long as the Redskins have a mathematical chance at the playoffs and he is the best QB in practice. If we keep getting injured at the usual rate, that could be a short playoff window though. Keenum proved he can be a competent starter and execute the offense last week, so I have no problem with continuing with him under center. The main thing for Haskins is not to start him so early that we either stunt his development (if he develops bad habits) or risk getting him injured (if he still isn’t good enough at calling protections). The team has preached patience with him since he was drafted, as he only started 1 year at Ohio State and is still learning many nuances of the QB position (calling protections, cadence of the playcall, footwork, etc). Several times in offseason practice or preseason games, he caused the OL to false start because of his cadence, or had to face an unblocked rusher because he called a poor protection given the defensive front, or took an unnecessary hit because he took too long to process the field. Those kinds of mistakes are best to correct in practice rather than in games. However, he very visibly improved over the course of 4 preseason games, and if he keeps improving at that rate, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s ready to start mid-season. He has an amazing arm and can deliver passes with touch all over the field, and has all the intangibles of a franchise QB (intelligence, work ethic, charisma, etc). I think Case is the kind of QB who can win with a good team around him, but Haskins will be the kind of QB who can put a team on his back and carry them to a win. He’s not there yet though.

BTB: Who are a couple of young players that you guys are excited about and that Cowboys fans should watch out for on Sunday?

HH: Terry McLaurin is a rookie WR who played with Dwayne Haskins at Ohio State and has 4.3 speed. He really emerged last week against the Eagles with 5 receptions for 125 yards and a TD. Cole Holcomb is a rookie ILB who seems to have already played his way into a starting role and was making plays all over the field last week (8 tackles, including 2 TFLs and 7 defensive stops). We would also hope 1st round pick Montez Sweat emerges as a pass rusher, but he has been pretty quiet so far in the preseason and last week, though he’s been effective in run defense.

BTB: Is Jay Gruden going to be the coach next year? How has he done in Washington in your opinion?

HH: This is hard to predict. I think Jay’s job depends on one of two things: making the playoffs, or having Dwayne Haskins look so good by the end of the season that the team is convinced Jay is the best person to guide his development. Jay has already demonstrated a bit of gallows humor about his chances of remaining HC, joking that he isn’t worried about the possibility of being on Hard Knocks next year because he won’t be here if we don’t make the playoffs, so I think it’s clear that he knows his job is on the line. That being said, even a losing season could look good in hindsight if Haskins takes over late in the season and looks good enough to carry us to the playoffs next year.

In terms of how he’s done... I’ve been on record as saying I’m grateful for the Jay Gruden era, but I think it’s time to move on. Jay inherited a dumpster fire of a team, helped make it consistently mediocre, and brought a period of much-needed stability. That’s no small feat and it is a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough. A look at Redskins season records might help illustrate this.

The team was 3-13 the year before Jay came on board and had lost 3 first round picks (plus change) in the RG3 trade. We had one of the oldest rosters in the NFL, very little young talent (difficult to develop without high draft picks), and were still starting a QB in Griffin who was too injury-prone to act as a dual-threat QB, but not developing as a pocket passer. Jay was instrumental in turning this team around. He (along with then-GM Scot McCloughan) managed to convince owner Dan Snyder to let Kirk Cousins start over RG3, which I believe also led to Snyder taking a less active role in managing the team. Jay also became an important part of the draft process, has been noted by Scot McCloughan as more involved in scouting than most coaches he has worked with, and has been credited with finding several quality Redskins players (Matt Ioannidis, Quinton Dunbar, Trey Quinn, and Cole Holcomb to name a few). Jay is a part of the Redskins increasing focus on the draft to build the team, as well as a contributor to our recent success in the draft. Jay is also the first Redskins head coach to be extended since Dan Snyder bought the team, providing stability to let other parts of the organization and roster take shape in that time.

Looking back on that list of Redskins seasons, you’ll see that Jay is the only Redskins head coach since the first tenure of Joe Gibbs in the early 90s to give us 4 straight seasons of no less than 7 wins, which is a pretty good floor. On the other hand, the team has never achieved more than 9 wins in 5 years under Jay, has only gone to the playoffs once in that time, and has never had a playoff victory. That’s the consistent mediocrity that Redskins fans were grateful for at first, but are now mostly ready to move past. I could probably spend several pages enumerating the strengths and weaknesses of Jay as a head coach, but suffice it to say that I think he can be compared to Marvin Lewis, who Jay learned under in Cincinnati. Like Marvin Lewis, Jay was a step up from the coaches that came before him, and created a period of stability that allowed the team to grow. But also like Marvin Lewis, Jay seems to have a definite ceiling, and Redskins fans don’t want to be stuck with 16 years of respectable season records and no playoff victories to show for it.

Thanks for the knowledge, Hogs Haven!

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