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Ron Rivera Will Continue To Put His Trust In Dwayne Haskins

Washington Football Team quarterback Dwayne Haskins (7) looks to throw the ball during NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, September 27, 2020 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Aaron Doster/NFL)

Head coach Ron Rivera faced a computer screen with dozens of reporters staring back at him, and they all wanted to know the same thing: what is he going to do about Dwayne Haskins Jr.?

It was a fair question considering Haskins threw three interceptions in the Washington Football Team's 34-20 loss to the Cleveland Browns after throwing none in the first two weeks. Two in the first half helped the Browns score 17 unanswered points, while one in the fourth quarter allowed them to pad a late lead.

Rivera said after the game he was going to take his "lumps" with Haskins this year, and Sunday's game was certainly one of those moments. But as long as the second-year quarterback continues to learn from his mistakes, Rivera will continue to support him.

"The only way he can learn and we can truly find out where Dwayne is and what he can do for us is to put him back on the football field and let him get exposed," Rivera said. "That is how he grows."

Last week, Haskins was going through his progressions too quickly. This week, Haskins' biggest problem was staring down receivers and putting the ball on the wrong side of the receiver. That is disappointing, Rivera said, because Haskins has a good arm and can be accurate, and keeping his gaze on one receiver is something he should know to avoid.

"Part of going through your progression is that when you are staring a guy down, you have made a preconceived decision that you are going to throw the ball there, and that is when you really get in trouble," Rivera said. "We will have to take a look at what happened and whether he was going through his progression properly and whether his feet were set when he was delivering the ball. That is all part of it."

Haskins knew exactly what happened on each interception. He thought he could fit a pass to Logan Thomas over the coverage, but Karl Joseph was there to grab the first pick. Then, with about two minutes left in the second quarter, he forced a throw to Dontrelle Inman on a curl route when he should have thrown to Thomas in the flat. The third interception came in the fourth quarter when he threw the ball too early, allowing the linebacker to undercut him.

Haskins said after the game he was trying to do too much.

"It is just about playing situational football and understanding when to take a sack or when to throw the ball down to the running back and not make [negative] plays for us."

Rivera said all the interceptions bothered him, but he also understands they stemmed from Haskins trying to help Washington win the game. Because Haskins is still developing, Rivera said the team "will live" with the mistakes.

"He is going to grow from those mistakes," Rivera said. "Again, the only way to find out if he can do it is to keep him on the football field."

There were moments when Haskins did show progress. He put together an eight-play, 75-yard drive on Washington's second possession to go up 7-0. Later in the third quarter, he helped the offense outscore the Browns, 13-0, to take a 20-17 lead.

"You look at the scoring drives that we had, you look at the play he made on fourth down, staying there, sticking in there and going to Logan, that was a huge positive," Rivera said. "You see the two touchdown throws to Dontrelle -- both of them were excellent balls that were thrown where they needed to be thrown to give Dontrelle the chance to make a catch which he did.

"But, then you see the interceptions and the untimely errors. Those are the things we have to work on and correct."

Once the game was over, Rivera pulled Haskins aside to say, "Look, I told you. I am behind you, and I am going to stick with you so you go out there and play football."

"He just has to learn and understand that you don't have to make the big play all the time. Plus, you have guys that can make plays so all you need to do is get the ball into their hands and let them go out and make plays."

Haskins said it means a lot to him that Rivera believes in him, but he does not want to get comfortable with that.

"That doesn't matter if you are not producing on the field," Haskins said. "I'm definitely appreciative of that and how he feels about me going in that direction. I want to keep getting better for myself and my teammates and try to help these guys find a way to win and honestly not be so competitive or take myself out of the game."

Rivera knows putting his trust in young quarterbacks can pay off, because he did the same thing with Cam Newton, who was Rivera's first draft pick as the Carolina Panthers' head coach in 2011. Like Haskins, Newton was 3-7 in his first 10 starts. Four years later, Newton won MVP honors.

Haskins is a different quarterback than Newton, but Rivera does believe his trust in the former No. 1 overall pick contributed to his success. He hopes that will have a similar effect on Haskins.

"I am not going to pull the plug on him just because something like this happens."

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