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It was another tough Sunday afternoon for the Washington Football Team, as it dropped to 1-3 after a 31-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. But in terms of individual performances, it was one of Dwayne Haskins Jr.'s best in his career.
After going through a week of scrutiny for his underwhelming game against the Cleveland Browns, Haskins responded with 314 yards and a rushing touchdown. It was the first 300-plus-yard outing of his professional career, and his 71.1 completion percentage was the second-best of his career.
Haskins still has steps to take in his development, but Sunday's game showed he was heading in the right direction.
"There were some things that were positive," head coach Ron Rivera said Monday. "[He was] doing the things he needs to do and showing the growth. That's what we're looking for."
The spotlight was put on Haskins' development after the Browns game when Rivera said there was a "cutoff point" where he needed to see growth from the second-year quarterback. He wanted to see Haskins make the right decisions using the right techniques like trying to avoid staring down receivers and playing situational football.
Riviera did not like the assumptions being made by people outside of the team throughout the week, but he was pleased with how Haskins handled his challenges for better play.
"I thought he handled that very well," Rivera said. "I thought he came out and tried to play his own game. That's part of his growth. He'll learn that as we continue to go forward. He's going to have to learn to grow. He's going to have some growing pains, we know that. But also, he has to know that he has to perform."
Rivera said after the game Haskins "had his moments," and there were points where Haskins flashed his accuracy and arm strength. He thought Haskins made some good decisions throughout the afternoon and liked his deep passes, including a 39-yard strike to Terry McLaurin.
Haskins also did a better job of getting the ball to other receivers besides his first reads. He targeted eight different receivers and completed passes to seven of them. McLaurin led the team with 10 receptions on 14 targets, but the running back duo of Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic combined for 11 receptions on 13 targets.
After the game, Haskins said he was in "great" control.
"I felt calm. I felt collected. I felt like I had a plan in what I was trying to do before it happened, and I was able to have a plan of how to react if it wasn't there. So just keep on taking that and enhancing it and getting better each week."
As good as Haskins looked at times, there were also moments that left Rivera disappointed in terms of his situational awareness. Rivera decided to leave the offense on the field to convert a 4th-and-goal in the fourth quarter, and rather than deliver the ball in the end zone, Haskins elected to throw short of the goal line to Isaiah Wright, who was tackled at the Ravens' eight-yard line.
Rivera bluntly said that situation was a test for Haskins to see what he would do.
"Again, it's just something that he's got to learn if he's going to be a starter in this league and contribute to winning football games. He has to understand and develop. This is part of it. This is part of the growth. We didn't have opportunities this offseason to work through situations and scenarios. It's just kind of learn as you grow."
Regardless, Haskins' miscues do not erase his positive plays from Sunday. It's part of his development, Rivera said, and he will consider all of Haskins' plays in his evaluation.
"Like I said, he made some good throws and some good decisions. He put us in scoring positions sometimes. He did the things that you're looking for. Unfortunately, he missed a couple things. There's a lot of good tape to look at. He will learn from this tape, I promise you that."
Haskins said last week he wants to be a Hall of Fame quarterback, and he wants that to be "hard as hell." He wants to give his teammates something to stand behind; Sunday's was another step towards accomplishing that.
"I thought I did a good job today just taking what the defense gives me," he said. "I'm definitely not satisfied, but it's something to build upon and work on."
Check out photos of the Washington Football Team during its Week 4 matchup against the Baltimore Ravens.(Photos courtesy of Elijah Walter Griffin Sr/Washington Football Team and Emilee Fails/Washington Football Team)
-- Rivera says Landon Collins plays physical all the time: Landon Collins has been one of Washington's leaders on defense since he joined the team last year. Rivera said he thinks the three-time Pro Bowler is playing hard, but he has missed on some opportunities like bringing down Lamar Jackson before he could break loose on his 50-yard touchdown. Rivera believes that comes from Collins trying to make plays, which he said is typical for a lot of veteran defensive players.
"They're trying to force a fumble. They want to take the ball away, and then they get outside of [the scheme]. But early in the game, you see the guys doing the things they're capable of, playing the way they're supposed to. That's exciting. Landon's one of those guys. He plays hard, he plays physical, all the time. He's constantly trying to make things happen."
-- Washington is "Rivera Strong": There were a couple of surprises for Rivera when he arrived at FedExField Sunday morning. The first was the team filling the stands above the visiting team's tunnel with more than 400 cutouts from friends, family, coaches, former players and Washington employees. The second was the team wearing "Rivera Strong" t-shirts to support him in his battle with skin cancer. It meant a lot, Rivera said, to see so many people honoring him. For his players, it was simply a way for them to show him how he means to them.
"It means a lot...just to see him come fighting," said cornerback Kendall Fuller. "Not even just today but seeing him on Wednesday's, Thursday's and Friday's and seeing him fight. It motivates all of us to go out there and keep on fighting and never quit."
-- Antonio Gibson is ready to take off: Sunday's game was Gibson's best outing of the season with 126 total yards and a touchdown, including four receptions for 82 yards. He leads the team with three scores, and after playing in 26% of the offensive snaps in Week 1, he has averaged 49% in the past three games. Prior to the start of Sunday's game, Haskins told Gibson that "it's time to ball now [and] show everyone who you are."
"He's getting ready to take off and I'm excited for him. I mean, watching him in college, the dude was lining up in the slot running fades, so he's definitely somebody who's versatile, whether we can show him the backfield, motion him out, have him run a route or bring him out from the receiver spot and bring him in and have him running the ball. He's a very versatile guy who can make some stuff happen for us, and I will try to get him to own up his role and take advantage of it."
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