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Head coach Ron Rivera did not mince his words after the Washington Football Team suffered a 30-15 loss at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals: Dwayne Haskins Jr. did not perform up to expectations in the first half.
"Unfortunately, early on he missed some opportunities," Rivera said. "When you get chances, you can't miss them, and unfortunately we did. That's the truth of the matter. We did not play very well."
Haskins finished the game 19-of-33 for 233 yards and a touchdown, but there was a contrast between how he played in the first and second halves. He completed 9-of-16 passes for 66 yards as the Cardinals jumped out to a 20-0 lead. In the second half, he completed 10-of-17 passes for 157 yards and a score.
Rivera said Thursday Washington still has "a way to go" before it gets fully acclimated to Scott Turner’s system. It's possible that process won't be finished until next season, Rivera added, but Haskins wants to do what he can now to make sure he can put together a complete game.
"I just want to make sure I can do all I can throughout the week, make sure I'm prepared for the game," he said. "Right now, sure, it doesn't look good, but I'm going to keep doing what I've been doing."
Haskins' first-half issues do not necessarily stem from his decisions. There were times when Haskins delivered strong passes, including an eight-yard reception to Steven Sims Jr. on a 2nd-and-4 and a 25-yard catch-and-run from Terry McLaurin.
But there were times, Rivera said Monday, when linebackers defended running backs and safeties defended tight ends. There were positional mismatches Washington wanted to exploit but could not.
"That's what you're looking for when you get those types of opportunities to be able to lay that ball on the top of the shoulder to create those big plays," Rivera said. "We missed a couple of those."
There were two missed throws in the second quarter that stalled Washington's offense. The first came on a 3rd-and-2 when Haskins could not complete a pass to Logan Thomas at Washington's 25-yard line. The next came with 35 seconds left before halftime at Washington's 40-yard line on an incompletion intended for Dontrelle Inman.
Haskins faced a similar problem in Week 1 against the Eagles when he completed 7-of-16 passes for 77 yards. Rivera said this is because Haskins is operating too fast at the start of games. He's making the right throws, but he sees the reads so quickly that he doesn't go through his throwing progression.
"It's almost as if he's so hype that he goes through his progressions really quickly or he's trying to get the ball out of his hands sooner than he needs to. You want him to be a little bit more patient because he's making good reads, he's making good decisions, but he's either going through it too quickly and not delivering a good ball early on."
Haskins got more comfortable in the second half, and part of that was credited to understanding Arizona's defensive game plan. Haskins said the Cardinals were playing man coverage when he expected to see Cover 3 and Cover 4. So, they started to speed up the offense in the second half with a quicker tempo.
"Trying to figure out ways to get meshes and slants, getting Terry one-on-one in coverage. Once it turned into a chess game, and they played man coverage, we had to call plays to get certain guys open and we started to figure that out as the game went on."
Haskins' completion percentage was only slightly better in the second half, but his throws resulted in more yardage. Eight of his passes resulted in gains of at least 10 yards compared to two in the first half. That production helped Washington outscore Arizona, 15-10, for the rest of the game.
"You see it all being kind of put together," Rivera said. "That's the guy that we want to see when we start the game."
Haskins admitted after the game the offense's performance "wasn't perfect by any means," but it is part of the learning process the unit is going through. He has shown flashes that he can make the right throws and improve throughout the game. Now, the next step is to make that production happen sooner.
"There are lessons that we can learn from today, from last week and how we started, and we can try and make the changes for next week."
-- Positive news on Brandon Scherff: Three-time Pro Bowler Brandon Scherff was injured near the end of the second quarter Sunday and did not return for the rest of the game. Rivera would not give the full details on Scherff's injury, but he did open Monday's press conference by saying the team received good news on Scherff's status.
"He's going to miss a couple of weeks or something like that, but it's all positive. We'll go from there. I'll give you a full report on Wednesday, but just so you know it's positive."
-- Rivera wants more out of the defense's pass rush: Washington currently leads the NFL with 11 sacks. That's a fact Rivera is happy about entering Week 3. But he also admitted Sunday's game was a disappointment because he felt the unit took a step backward. The team played tentative on defense, Rivera said, compared to its Week 1 performance against the Eagles. That might have been because of Kyler Murray, DeAndre Hopkins and Larry Fitzgerald, but he still wants to see more from the players and coaches.
"We have a ways to go to get better, to get better as a football team. Am I fired up? Yeah, I am. But I'm a little bit disappointed in the way we played. Again, we've got to look at how we call the game as coaches as well."
-- Haskins liked the toughness from the running backs: The duo of Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic accounted for the bulk of Washington's 117 rushing yards on 23 carries. That showed progress from the team's 80 yards on the ground against the Eagles. That performance impressed Haskins, who said the group "had an attitude of being tougher than the guy ahead of you or the guy in front of you."
"We're starting to figure out that we can move the ball and change the line of scrimmage, run hard and they can't tackle us. We started to run the ball better. We just have to find a way of getting to that mentality earlier."
Check out photos of the Washington Football Team during its Week 2 game against the Arizona Cardinals. (Photos courtesy of Tanner Serrano/NFL unless otherwise noted.)
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