Rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins is making his first career start on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills, and the coaching staff is making sure they are giving him all the tools he needs to succeed.
Haskins’ first two bouts of game experience – Week 4 against the New York Giants and Week 8 against the Minnesota Vikings – were during games in which he was the backup not expected to step onto the field. But a full week of getting starter’s reps in practice means the offensive game plan will be designed around him.
“I think we’re streamlining things that he can execute well and go out and perform,” said interim head coach Bill Callahan. “I think anybody across this league would really formulate the system around your players and what you player does well. That was the focus going into this week, and…that’s something we always work on regardless of which quarterback’s at play.”
The coaching staff utilized a variety of methods like artificial crowd noise and a variety of play clock times to enforce tempo and communication at an accelerated rate, ensuring that Haskins is ready for any situation he could see against the Bills.
“We tried to time where he was at the snap, when the ball was snapped, how many seconds were left,” Callahan said. “We’re trying to build on that just like we would (with) anybody.”
-- Haskins’s demeanor has not changed much this week; there is not much of a deviation from when he was preparing to be the backup or the third-string quarterback, and that is something offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell likes to see.
“If you change too much, I think I’d be a little concerned about that just because I would like to see that consistent preparation whether you’re the one, two or three, it doesn’t matter to me,” O’Connell said. “Because you like to see those guys really be ready to go whether they’re one or two snaps away.”
O’Connell said Haskins has routinely been in his office throughout the week, and he told the young quarterback that he wanted to see where he was at with the playbook on Friday so they could “get the Sharpie pen out and start crossing things off.”
“You want to make sure those guys are comfortable with what you’re asking them to do no matter how much you like the scheme or how much you like this formation or this dynamic that you could possibly show the Bills on offense. If our guys are not comfortable with it, it really doesn’t matter. So that’s a huge part of it.”
-- Second-year running back Derrius Guice was in practice this week for the first time in almost two months, which means the Redskins will have a crowded position group once he's ready to return.
But Callahan isn’t focused on that right now. He just wants to see Guice show some progress in the weeks to come.
“I think Guice has worked hard,” Callahan said. “I think he’s worked diligently in his rehabilitation. He’s come back from two knee surgeries and he’s really focused on trying to get himself well.”
Callahan said he’s seen Guice “work harder than I’ve ever seen him” to get back on the field, and the fruits of that labor are apparent. He worked with his fellow running backs all week, and he was seen juking and cutting with ease and agility.
“I’m happy to see him on the field again,” Callahan said.
Callahan was also quick to remind people that Guice has a long way to go before being ready to play, so all they can do now is focus on the running backs that can actually get snaps during games.
“We’ll address that when the time is appropriate,” he said. “[It's] way too early to decide on reps and counts they’ll have for that particular game. We’re just focused on Buffalo right now.”
Take a look at photos from Redskins practice on Wednesday October 30, 2019 before they take on the Buffalo Bills.
-- Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky and the Redskins’ defense will have their hands full again on Sunday with quarterback Josh Allen – a player Callahan called a “young Cam Newton” – and running back Frank Gore, but they respect the talent that each of them possesses.
“It’s amazing,” Manusky said of Gore’s career. “He and [quarterback)]Alex [Smith] came in the same year in San Francisco. He’s a downhill runner who can make plays and he still does. He’s a talented runner and we’ve got to make sure we put as many hands on him as humanly possible.”
Allen has 1,493 yards through the air and is the Bills’ second-leading rusher behind Gore. He and Gore average 4.4 yard per carry and have combined for five touchdowns. They also average almost 94 yards of rushing offense.
That kind of production means the team’s rushing defense will need to have a well-structured game plan, especially in the red zone.
“We have to have a great red zone plan and just overall try to get the big quarterback down,” Manusky said. “He’s a big guy and we have to make sure we get him down when we have the chance.”