Redskins should start rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins from day one

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 1: Quarterback Dwayne Haskins #7 of the Ohio State Buckeyes throws a pass in the first quarter against the Oregon State Beavers at Ohio Stadium on September 1, 2018 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 1: Quarterback Dwayne Haskins #7 of the Ohio State Buckeyes throws a pass in the first quarter against the Oregon State Beavers at Ohio Stadium on September 1, 2018 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images) /

There’s been some discussion over whether or not the Redskins should give Dwayne Haskins the keys to the car right away.

Detractors of the notion point to Dwayne Haskins‘ age; the Ohio State product entered the NFL Draft as a redshirt sophomore, and the Washington Redskins have the luxury of flexibility in some respects, with experienced veterans such as Case Keenum and Colt McCoy in the wings.

There’s an avenue for Haskins to start at a later date, but the best course of action might be starting Haskins from day one, for numerous reasons.

There’s one factor that trickles into all others, and it is that Haskins, individually, is a relatively pro ready quarterback. His age and relative lack of experience is often brought up, but context is important here. Haskins entered the draft relatively young, but he still displayed a mental refinement far beyond his years, possessing the ability to diagnose pre-snap and process the field quickly. One could argue that Haskins’ mental acuity was his best trait as a prospect, and early on in the offseason, his quick development, per Jay Gruden, mirrors that truth.

That begs another question: When should rookies start right away, and when should they sit? There is no substitute for on-field experience, in terms of development. On-field experience immerses the rookie in the game, and allows them to react, adapt, and apply their knowledge gained from experience in real time.

A graphic shared by ESPN analyst Mike Clay on Twitter sheds light on the league’s usage of experience to mold their young quarterbacks. Of the 30 first-round quarterbacks drafted over the past ten years, 16 of those quarterbacks started in Week 1 of their respective seasons.

One name that may stand out is Patrick Mahomes, who started only in Week 17 of 2017, because he had Alex Smith to start ahead of him, and mentor him. The Redskins still have Alex Smith in that mentorship capacity, but he is unavailable as a player, and Haskins, while not as purely talented as Mahomes, is more refined than Mahomes was coming out, and has enough talent to ascend over time. A system where Smith talks through the game with Haskins on the bench, while Haskins’ applies insight from Smith and other coaches on the field in real time, could be very beneficial to his early development.

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The Redskins need to be careful about the aspect of time in this scenario. For four years, they have Haskins on a cheap rookie deal. While they could sign Haskins for longer, if he turns out to be an NFL quarterback capable of elevating a team with less financial flexibility, their best chance to contend in the near future is to maximize Haskins’ rookie contract window. To do that, they can’t waste any time with his development. If he’s ready enough by the start of the regular season, he should get the call.

In certain scenarios, taking it slow would be preferred. It’s important not to rush development. If the Redskins had drafted Drew Lock, sitting would be preferred. Lock has greater upside, but he also has glaring bad habits that might only be magnified by early NFL action. Haskins is not afflicted by those same bad habits. His floor is high enough where he can undergo trial by fire early, and not crumble under the pressure. And he has a very solid quarterback support system to rely on, with coaches like Jay Gruden and Kevin O’Connell, and fellow position players like Smith, Colt McCoy, and Case Keenum.

Haskins’ supporting cast factors into the equation as well. If he was being trotted onto the field with three third-string linemen, like Mark Sanchez and Josh Johnson last season, then one could argue that being on the field could stunt his development. But as uncertain as some offensive pieces are, the unit is not in shambles anymore.

To expect good health across the board is to be ignorant of recent patterns, but the team is working to correct injury issues, and Haskins has some chemistry with his receivers already. There are no red flags to keep Haskins off the field in this department. At least, not yet.

Keenum and McCoy trump Haskins in terms of experience, to no one’s surprise, but Haskins has the most arm talent, accuracy, and long-term potential out of the group. There’s no upside starting Keenum, and there’s no upside starting McCoy. From an individual standpoint, Haskins’ best module of learning rests on the field, and the Redskins shouldn’t keep him away if they don’t have to.

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Haskins was picked at No. 15 for a reason. Haskins is the future for the Redskins, and the future doesn’t have to wait. For Haskins’ development, and for the longevity of the team’s newly-found contention window, the Redskins should start Haskins from day one, and they shouldn’t look back.