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'A Whole Different Player': Five Improvements Dwayne Haskins Has Made Since His Debut Against The Giants


It has been 10 games since Dwayne Haskins Jr. was sent out with the Redskins' offense for the first time in his NFL career against the New York Giants, and his performance on that September afternoon still makes him sick.

"I threw up watching that film," Haskins said. "I don't like watching that tape."

That kind of self-evaluation might be a little harsh, but Haskins' point is well received: he did not like the way he played in the Redskins' 24-3 loss. He does not recognize the player who wore a burgundy No.7 and completed 9 of 17 passes for 107 yards and three interceptions.

Haskins has moved on from that game. He says he is a different person and "a whole different player" than he was in Week 4. Anyone who saw him against the Philadelphia Eagles would say that much is apparent.

Haskins put together his best statistical performance against the Eagles by completing 67% of his passes for 261 yards and two touchdowns. The Redskins scored touchdowns on two of the first three drives, and though it came in a loss, Haskins showed a level of comfort and poise that he didn't have against the Giants.

Now the new-look Haskins gets to reacquaint himself with the Giants this Sunday at FedExField. Here are five ways he has improved since that first matchup at MetLife Stadium:

1. He is far more accurate with his passes.

Haskins' first drive as the Redskins' signal caller went well enough; he directed the offense on an 11-play drive that went down to the Giants' 1-yard line and ended in a field goal.

Although he showed flashes of every reason why the Redskins picked him 15th overall in the 2019 NFL Draft, some of his throw were slightly off target. That trend continued throughout the game, as he went on to complete only 52% of his passes with a 32.8 passer rating.

An example of that also came on his first drive. Facing a third-and-goal from the 3-yard line, Haskins missed on a pass to Vernon Davis that would have been a touchdown. It was a tight window, but there was a chance Davis would have made the catch had Haskins not thrown it out of reach.

"I had a whole bunch of emotions in my head," Haskins said after the game. "I just wanted to win the game."

Haskins is still working to be a more accurate passer, but it was clear against the Eagles that he has dramatically improved in that area. He completed his first six passes on his way to 19 overall -- two more than he attempted against the Giants.

Possibly his best throw of the game came in the second quarter. In a similar situation to his missed touchdown against the Giants -- a third-and-goal from the Eagles' 5-yard line -- Haskins delivered an or-target throw to Steven Sims Jr. over Avonte Maddox where only his fellow rookie could make the catch.

"He doesn't make the repetitive mistake that some young guys make," said interim head coach Bill Callahan. "He doesn't make the same error twice."

2. He is using his legs more often.

It was third-and-one in the third quarter of the Eagles game, and Haskins found a gaping hole in the secondary that turned into a 23-yard gain. He reached the 12-yard line before he was brought down and celebrated with a stomp and a roar.

The run came off a read-option play -- something that was not in the Redskins' playbook until recently – and was meant to inject a little bit of the college game into the Redskins' offense to make Haskins feel more comfortable in his progression.

"It probably reminds you a little bit of Ohio State and him in the spread and reading coverage," offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell said last week. "I think that there's some carry-over there to what he did at a high level in college."

Haskins is not known for being a rushing quarterback, as he only has 101 yards on 20 attempts. But he has been doing it a lot more lately, and it has caused defenses to respect the threat.

Against the Giants, Haskins was the Redskins' second-leading rusher behind Adrian Peterson with two carries for 23 yards. His longest was a 14-yard run on his first drive that set the offense up at the Giants' 3-yard line.

In the past four games, Haskins has 59 yards on 11 carries. He had three carries for 26 yards with an average of 8.7 yards per rush against the Eagles and was once again the Redskins' second-leading rusher.

It isn't likely that Haskins will be running the football as much as other young quarterbacks, but his legs have continued to become an aspect of his game that defenses have to account for in their game plans.

3. He is more decisive and taking fewer sacks.

Sacks have been a problem for the Redskins' offense all year. In six starts and eight total appearances, Haskins has been sacked 26 times, which is tied for 19th among all quarterbacks this year.

Those struggles started against the Giants when he was sacked twice for 21 yards. What's more, both of those sacks came when Haskins had plenty of time in the pocket. He held the ball for 5.2 seconds on the first sack before the Giants' pass rush got to him, and he stood in the pocket for 4.9 seconds before he was sacked again.

Haskins is aware that he needs to improve in that area and that many of his sacks have stemmed from his lack of decisiveness in his progression.

"Sometimes when I'm back there, I'm trying to find things deep or down the field instead of just finding the checkdown in the flat," Haskins said. "Sometimes it's not there and I get sacked."

As a result, Haskins has had a habit of holding onto the ball for too long. Prior to the Eagles game, it took Haskins an average of 2.9 seconds to throw passes. Only Kirk Cousins with the Minnesota Vikings was worse with an average of three seconds.

Haskins changed that against the Eagles, though. He cut his average throw down to 2.72 seconds, which helped him avoid taking a sack for the first time this season. recorded that he was strip sacked on the final play, but the ball was out of Haskins' hands long before he was brought to the ground, as he was trying to pitch it back to one of his teammates.

But even taking that into account, it was the cleanest Haskins has been in the pocket, and his quick release played a big role in that.

4. He is using more of the field.

Haskins came out wanting to use his arm to fuel a Redskins comeback against the Giants. Twelve of his throws were made to receivers outside of the numbers. The other five throws were made in the middle of the field or on the numbers -- two were screen passes, two were attempted close to the numbers and only one was made in the middle of the field.

Haskins completed 50% of his throws to targets outside of the numbers; he completed 60% of the rest of his passes.

Against the Eagles, Haskins was still throwing outside of the numbers and towards the sideline, but he was also distributing the ball more evenly to all parts of the field. Out of his 28 passes, more than half of them were thrown in the middle of the field or on the numbers.

It should be noted that each game plan is different, so it is possible that the Redskins wanted to attack the sideline more than the middle of the field against the Giants.

However, it's still worth pointing out that Haskins has opened up his throwing range to include all parts of the field, and that comes down to him being a smarter player after six starts.

"The more I play, being able to know where the checkdowns are when pockets break down and know where I'm going to get rid of the ball when [defenses] bring something and we didn't pick it up," Haskins said. "Just playing better situational football."

5. He is avoiding turnovers.

Some of the biggest takeaways from Haskins' debut against the Giants were his three interceptions. One looked like he misread coverage, one was a 50-50 shot down the sideline and one bounced off Davis' shoulders.

He threw four total interceptions against the Giants and Minnesota Vikings, but he has been much better at taking care of the football since he was named the starter against the Buffalo Bills. He didn't commit any turnovers against the Bills, and he repeated that feat against the Carolina Panthers three weeks later.

Since being named the starting quarterback, Haskins has five touchdowns to three interceptions. In his best statistical game against the Eagles, he was throwing on target to receivers in tight windows, which was not always the case against the Giants.

That ball security is one of the many things that has impressed Callahan about Haskins' improvement.

"His ability to function and to read…has really been the biggest development that I can see from our first Giants game to where we're at right now today," Callahan said.

Callahan has been adamant that young players should get as much playing time as possible to help their development in later seasons. That is especially true for a franchise quarterback like Haskins, who has used every game to improve his skill set. So when he plays the Giants again at FedExField, he won't be the young Ohio State quarterback anymore; he'll be an NFL starter who knows how to win games.

"People have seen him take more control -- not only in the pre-snap, but the post-snap -- his development of reading progression, progressing through to open receivers, getting off coverage receivers to outlets, beginning to work outside the pocket and trying to improve the out of pocket decisions, as well as his scrambling decisions," Callahan said. "I just think his overall game is getting better every week."

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