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Washington QB Dwayne Haskins battling expectations in 2020

Washington QB Dwayne Haskins battling expectations in 2020
Image credit: Washington Football Team

He was drafted safely within the confines of the first round in the 2019 NFL Draft, but Washington QB Dwayne Haskins did not enter the 2020 offseason with any kind of security. An up-and-down rookie season rendered Dwayne Haskins a national enigma heading into the new decade. Even now, with the 2020 regular season just days away, much of the national opinion is split on the Ohio State product and how he’ll produce in 2020.

Early draft orders produced by oddsmakers have the Washington Football Team as a near-unanimous top-five selector in the 2021 NFL Draft. This fate alludes to the assumption that Haskins will not do enough to distinguish himself as Washington’s franchise signal-caller. Onlookers closer to the nation’s capital, however, are more optimistic for Haskins’ sophomore season, and there’s a general sense that Haskins will take a leap. Watching his growth since last year’s winter is almost necessitated in order to fully understand his trajectory in 2020.

Success is far from a guarantee for Haskins, but he’s made a living out of withstanding adversity since he joined the league. Now that he has a stable coaching staff and the belief of that coaching staff, those expectations don’t matter. How far can Washington QB Dwayne Haskins ascend in 2020?

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Washington QB Dwayne Haskins’ 2019 progression

Haskins will tell you himself: his preparation wasn’t where it should have been at the beginning of last season. That wasn’t all Haskins’ fault, of course. Washington’s coaching staff was conflicted at the start of the 2019 season — stuck between needing to develop players and a needing to win now. Haskins got caught in the middle of that conflict, and it not only hurt his allotted preparation time but also at lessened his urgency to prepare.

Related | Washington Football Team: Positions with most to prove in 2020

With Case Keenum as the starter ahead of Haskins, Haskins never had a sense that he’d be seeing significant action the next week, and when he did, he was thrown into the fire before he was ready. The results were about as you’d expect: Zero touchdowns, three interceptions, and a near-infinite amount of exterior doubt. Soon after his first action, Haskins was awarded the starting job for good. A short time after that, the pieces started to come together. The coaching staff invested more time into Haskins, and his urgency and confidence increased. With those qualities improving, his production improved as well.

Haskins ended the 2019 season on a steady uptrend, throwing for seven touchdowns and three interceptions in the final six games. Beyond the raw stats, his progression was even more profound. He rebounded from an abhorrent start to finish in the top 25 in Pro Football Network’s OSM metric, with a “good” score of 21.1. In his final two weeks, Haskins graded out as a top-ten quarterback in OSM. In Week 16, his final regular-season performance, he was OSM’s QB1, and recorded the third-best OSM grade of the season among QBs.

The mechanisms of Haskins’ ascension

It was his affirmation from the coaching staff that enabled Haskins to improve down the stretch in 2019. Additionally, his physical and mental traits provided a starting point for his improvement. Perhaps that’s what enticed Ron Rivera enough to keep Haskins as his starter in 2020 when he could have gone in a different direction. In his college tape, Haskins showcased some arm talent and his accuracy was one of his defining traits in college. His size was evident, but it wasn’t until he left the confines of Ryan Day’s offense and was exposed to the hardships of the NFL that his physical potential truly became observable.

In the early goings, faced with the indiscriminate adversity of the NFL, Haskins was not yet fully acclimated to the NFL grind and had to rely more on his physical traits to get by. Through this process, we saw him make plays with his legs, and we also saw him use the full extent of his arm strength. Additionally, we saw him stand tall in the pocket and show off his toughness. As the season went on, and the game continued to slow down, Haskins was able to contextualize his physical capabilities and apply them to his mental process. At that point, we saw Haskins play his best football. Haskins was able to hone his arm strength and accuracy as tools to complement his mental framework, not as primary methods of success.

Related | Matchup Analysis: Washington’s defensive line vs. Philadelphia’s offensive line

Haskins entered 2020 on the uptrend, but he still had plenty to work on, and he’s wasted no opportunity. As the Eagles game approaches, Haskins is locked in, and he’s completely remade himself as Washington’s franchise quarterback. Haskins trimmed down over 10 pounds to further hone his athleticism and mobility, which he showed flashes of in 2019. He also worked to create chemistry with his receivers over the course of the offseason, and he found his voice as a leader in training camp. As a result, the team voted Haskins as a captain.

He has the confidence of his teammates and his coaches. Now, he needs to go out and earn the confidence of the rest of the league.

What to expect from Haskins in 2020

The development process is still far from over for Haskins. He now must apply what he’s learned over the course of his career thus far, and have it translate on the field. His processing clearly started to improve over the course of 2019, as did his proactivity as a playmaker. Taking into account his athletic refinement and mental work with quarterback guru Ken Zampese throughout the 2020 offseason, it’s hard not to be optimistic for Haskins’ sophomore season. Haskins has the tools to be a complete quarterback, and he appears to have the right mindset as well.

Related | Washington Roster 2020: Post cut down day reaction

There is, however, another factor to consider: The team around him. Washington is widely viewed as one of the NFL’s bottom feeders, and the dysfunction that has marred the team for so long serves as a blanket, concealing whatever legitimate development might be taking place in the nation’s capital. That’s a consequence of being in that state for so long. There is talent on Washington’s offense, but the offensive line has lingering questions, and the skill position group is far from proven. Haskins will be relied upon to keep fighting through adversity, and at times, he’ll be asked to elevate his team, as any franchise quarterback would be.

Can Haskins do it? That’s a question we don’t have an answer to yet. That’s because we haven’t seen the new Dwayne Haskins. But if it’s any indication, the new Dwayne Haskins isn’t worried about the expectations. The new Dwayne Haskins wants to be seen.

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