Paul Richardson sat with his fellow wide receivers at halftime of Sunday's game in Buffalo when rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins approached him. He talked about what he saw from the Bills’ defense and then asked the receivers what they were seeing. Specifically, Haskins wanted to know what kind of looks the defensive backs were giving them, what was happening on the backside of the play and what kinds of routes he could come back to if he needed them.
It was a simple gesture -- one that is a necessity for all starting quarterbacks -- but it spoke volumes about Haskins’ development, and Richardson respected that.
“The guy’s only … 22 years old,” Richardson said. “I liked that. You can tell he has really good leadership qualities. He’s just finding his voice.”
Haskins got his first shot at starting in an NFL game against the Buffalo Bills after weeks of sitting behind fellow quarterback Case Keenum and developing in practice. With the wind whipping at New Era Field in upstate New York and Bills Mafia cheering on the league’s third-best defense, it made for a challenge that would have made any rookie quarterback shiver, especially in 40-degree weather.
But Haskins pushed those things to the back of his mind and completed 15 of 22 passes for 144 yards. And while those numbers did not translate into a win, they were enough to earn some nods of approval from his coaches and teammates.
“I thought he was really efficient in a lot of areas,” interim head coach Bill Callahan said. “He put us in position. He got out of the pocket and used his feet a few times. But overall, I thought it was a pretty efficient day. I thought he managed it pretty well.”
Haskins’ big arm and ability to make plays downfield were two of his biggest strengths coming out of Ohio State. The wind all but eliminated both of those, so Haskins had to rely on his accuracy on short and intermediate throws against a defense that holds quarterbacks to a 74.8 passer rating.
Haskins completed four of his first six passes in the Redskins' first two drives, but his most efficient stretch came in third quarter. While the running game, which had been effective in the first half, was stifled by the Bills’ defensive line, Haskins connected with Richardson and rookie Terry McLaurin on two passes for 25 yards to push the team into field goal range.
Haskins said he got more confident as the game went on, and that was apparent in his stats, as he had a better completion percentage (71%) and more passing yards (87) in the second half.
“I was seeing the field better and better as the game went on,” Haskins said. “That’s a part of playing quarterback and getting reps. … I just want to play natural and play instinctive, and I felt that going into this game the more and more snaps that I got.”
Haskins wasn’t officially named the starting quarterback until Friday, but he received all of the first-team reps in practice throughout the week. Callahan said Haskins was focused and “locked-in” on the field and in the classroom, while offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell said Haskins was routinely in his office talking about the game plan.
After the game, Callahan said the work Haskins put in translated onto the field.
“I saw a lot of positive carryover in his development for a first-start rookie,” Callahan said. “Boy, everything we had emphasized, in terms of communication, being able to annunciate the verbiage of the plays, getting in and out of the huddle without delays. And that’s a credit to him. He put in a lot of time and we had talked early in the week about the emphasis and he took it to heart.”
Running back Adrian Peterson told Haskins before the game to “take ownership of this,” and the future Hall of Fame player saw plenty of positives from his first start.
“I saw the confidence in his eyes,” Peterson said. “I thought he came out and did a great job. It wasn’t all perfect … but for his first start overall, I thought he did good.”
Haskins had four interceptions when he came in relief for Keenum during games against the New York Giants in Week 4 and the Minnesota Vikings in Week 8. He didn’t commit any turnovers against the Bills, which was one of the areas he knew he could fix.
“That was good,” Haskins said about not throwing an interception. “I made all the protection calls that I could make … and threw the ball into some contested coverages as far as third downs and some guys in my face. That’s part of playing quarterback at an elite level.”
It’s unclear when Haskins will get more playing time, but he views himself as a leader of the team who will be prepared whenever his number is called.
“I have to be ready to play whether it’s the first quarter, second quarter, whatever the scenario is. I did that to prepare for the game, and I felt really good going into it.”
Check out photos of the Washington Redskins during their regular season Week 9 game against the Buffalo Bills.