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The 5 O’Clock Club: A week for the young’uns to shine

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It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

Washington Redskins v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The 5 o’clock club is published several times per week during the season, and aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.


While it’s true that Dwayne Haskins started the game against Buffalo, that was in relief of an injured Case Keenum, who was still nominally the starter, but in the concussion protocol. This week’s game against the Jets sees Haskins’ transition to the named starter now and “for the rest of the season.”

Many people had pointed to this game with the Jets as being the likely start of the Dwayne Haskins era since the schedule was announced prior to the start of pre-season play. It forms a natural juncture in the schedule.

Few people, however, were prescient enough to predict that the Redskins would be 1-8, though there were more than just a few who predicted that Jay Gruden would be relaxing at home on Sundays while an interim head coach finished out the season.

New England Patriots v Washington Redskins Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

This week feels like a turning point; not necessarily in terms of wins and losses for the 2019 season, but as a sort of extended early look at what lies ahead for the 2020 season. There’s a good chance that the Redskins could begin to increase snap counts for younger players who need development, while dialing back those of veterans who aren’t likely to be part of the 2020 plan.

I think most people would predict, for example, that Josh Norman and Jordan Reed won’t be Redskins in 2020, but a number of other aging and expensive players could be looking for houses in new cities in the coming months, depending largely on what decisions the Redskins make about the new head coach (and possibly re-structuring the front office).

One thing that’s been clear in the four weeks that Bill Callahan has been in charge and seeking to establish the team’s identity as that of a running team is that the team has ground to a halt offensively, and is last in the league in scoring offense. The team has been held to single digit scores in its past three games, including getting shutout by the 49ers in a mud puddle at FedEx Field.

After a bye week in which the team, as every other team in the NFL does, self-scouted, one has to think that the direction would be clear. In addition to giving the rookie the start at quarterback, it’s probably time to give Kevin O’Connell complete freedom to call the offense the way he sees fit. Nobody has said this; I just can’t imagine how the brains trust of the Washington Redskins (oxymoron, I know) can continue to support the Bill Callahan philosophy of ground, pound, punt and pray at this point. It ain’t working... time for a fresh approach with nothing to lose by trying.

That leads me to the three players that I want to highlight today. the first is obvious.

Dwayne Haskins

Haskins sees his first game as the designated starting quarterback at home against the Jets, officially opening the Dwayne Haskins era, which began unofficially two weeks ago in Buffalo.

Haskins looked competent against the Bills in Week 9. While he wasn’t setting the world on fire with his play, he looked like he could play on an NFL field — something that hadn’t necessarily been true in his first two relief appearances.

Now, as the named starter for the balance of the season, with first team reps on a consistent basis, I expect Dwayne Haskins to look better week by week as he adjusts to the difference between college and the pros.

Washington Redskins v Buffalo Bills Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

Here’s what Bill Callahan had to say about Haskins yesterday:

I think confidence comes from preparation and the more he prepares and understands and has knowledge of the plan and can execute it confidently, I think it really manifests itself in a lot of ways not only in the meetings, but on the practice field and taking that into the games. That’s where I see Dwayne’s progression growing and maturing and hopefully it can translate into a win for us.

Right now, the task for Dwayne Haskins is to learn and get better. He’s got 7 games that can provide vital lessons that should pay off as early as opening day of the ‘20 season.

Derrius Guice

It’s easy to overlook Derrius Guice right now. Prior to the 2018 preseason, he took Washington DC by storm with his infectious personality, his person-to-person connection to fans via gaming, movies, bowling, other sports events in the area and his obsessive social media use.

After a year away, the relationship seemed to be a bit more restrained this offseason. Guice worked hard, came back, but failed to complete the opening day game without getting injured again. Now, having lost half a season to IR — 8 games in which a lot happened — Guice returns to a team and a fan base that have embraced Adrian Peterson as nearly the only bright spot on a moribund offense.

The “good news” for Derrius may be the ongoing injury to Chris Thompson and Wendell Smallwood’s failure to really shine in CT’s absence. It leaves an opening for Derrius Guice to get on the field and play.

Bill Callahan was asked about #29’s return to the field yesterday, and this is what he said:

Prior to his injury, he was doing really well in the passing game in the types of roles that I just got done talking about, being able to flex him out, move him, motion him, shift him into those various alignments where we can create a matchup with it. He’s been productive as a screen back, a checkdown back. I like the way he performs in his protection pickups, so his completeness was starting to show prior to injury and he’s making his way back. Slowly, but surely – we’re in pads today, we’ll be in pads tomorrow – we’ll get a little bit more work just to upgrade his physicality and get him ready against a defense that’s probably one of the more physical fronts that we’ll see this year.

It might just be me, but that sounds an awful lot like AD may continue to see the lion’s share of early-down carries, while Guice sees the field primarily as the passing-game back against the Jets.

NFL: AUG 09 Preseason - Redskins at Patriots Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Of course, even more than Thompson, Guice is always a threat to run, so bringing him into the game on 2nd & long or 3rd down may not necessarily signal an 80% chance of a passing play.

Given that Guice was injured in his first preseason game in 2018 and his first regular season game in 2019, I wouldn’t blame the coaching staff if they were a bit judicious with how many touches they gave him in this game, but reports from Guice himself were that he didn’t need an eight-week recovery and that the move to IR was, itself, already being overly cautious. He may see the same load that CT normally would in a game, and perhaps more if he spells Adrian Peterson from time to time.

Callahan had this to say:

Without giving a lot of it away, we feel pretty confident that he’ll see quite a bit of action this weekend.

One thing is for certain — I’m looking forward to finally seeing what last year’s second round draft pick can do on the field! Like Haskins, he has a 7-game learning opportunity ahead of him that could pay dividends when the Redskins offense takes the field to start the 2020 season.

Terry McLaurin

Terry McLaurin expressed a few weeks ago that he wasn’t enamored with the “Scary Terry” nickname, and that he preferred something else — especially a nickname that focused on his speed. He, unfortunately, didn’t say what nickname he did prefer, so I thought I’d trot a few new ones out today and try them on for size.

“Touchdown” Terry started off hot as the sun in his first four games, setting records for rookie production. He’s cooled off a bit since then, but that hasn’t seemed to be due to him, but due to the quarterback shuffle that’s been happening as coaching changes, pissing contests and injuries have seen three different starters under center in the past 5 games.

Washington Redskins at Miami Dolphins John McCall/South Florida Sun Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Oddly, it seemed that Case Keenum, not Dwayne Haskins, was the Redskins quarterback who had the best connection with Terry “Formula 1” McLaurin.

I expect that to change a bit now. I suspect that the two former Buckeyes — Haskins and McLaurin — will find their rhythm together quickly. We saw one play already where Haskins targeted Terry but the ball sailed on him, resulting in an interception. We’ve also seen “Turbo” Terry running open a time or two when the Redskins quarterback du jour hasn’t found him. As Dwayne Haskins improves his mechanics and his reads over the coming weeks, RunTMc (ouch!) is likely to be the beneficiary of the arm that made Haskins the premier college passer in the nation a year ago.

Kevin O’Connell

I’m guessing that our young offensive coordinator will also be given a chance to show what he can do over the coming seven weeks. It’s been clear from some of his comments in the past month that he has been calling plays in the context of an overall team and offensive philosophy set by Bill Callahan.

I suspect that may change a bit.

With the focus shifting from the 2019 season to the 2020 season, the Redskins need to show that they can score some points, and O’Connell deserves a chance to see what he can do if the reigns are loosened and he’s given freedom to call an offense. Bill Callahan has had four games to establish firm control over the roster; now it’s time to let the young offensive coordinator earn his pay and audition for the future.

Wrap up

I’m thinking that this Jets game will be seen, later, as the turning point in the development of a number of Redskins. Haskins will get his first game as the named starter, Guice will return to action and hopefully come out of the game as healthy as he went in, Terry McLaurin should begin to reestablish himself as the biggest offensive threat on the roster, and Kevin O’Connell should start to show who he is through his play-calling rather than simply reflecting the desires of his interim boss.

Other players may see new opportunities. While Case Keenum seemed to have a strong connection to Terry McLaurin, Haskins has, so far, has seemed most comfortable throwing to Paul Richardson when he has really needed a play. With the dearth of tight ends, we may well see a lot more of Kelvin Harmon, the 6th round big-bodied receiver who could become much more of a factor in the passing game down the stretch.

And, with both Brandon Scherff and Ereck Flowers slated for free agency after the ‘19 season ends, and the team unlikely to retain both of them, we might see young Wes Martin or Ross Pierschbacher rotated in for some snaps during the final seven games.

Bill Callahan spoke about what the goal is as the Redskins play out the string in a disappointing season:

We did a pretty extensive evaluation of each player during the bye. They’re graded, they’re evaluated and they also have what we would call an improvement area — a number of improvements that they can make over the course of the next few weeks — so we’d like to see that come to fruition for each of our players.

While the 2019 season has been mostly lowlights, losses and bad football through the first nine weeks, the final seven could provide some entertainment as the team starts to showcase the offense of the future.

Who knows? They may even win some games.

Poll

Dwayne Haskins’ Quarterback Rating versus the Bills in Week 9 was 86.2. Will it be higher or lower against the Jets in Week 11?

This poll is closed

  • 83%
    Higher
    (183 votes)
  • 16%
    Lower
    (36 votes)
219 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Over the 4 weeks of Bill Callahan’s reign as interim head coach, Adrian Peterson has averaged 18.75 carries per game. How many carries will Derrius Guice have against the Jets on Sunday?

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    None at all
    (0 votes)
  • 45%
    between 1 and 7
    (101 votes)
  • 49%
    between 8 and 14
    (110 votes)
  • 5%
    15 or more
    (13 votes)
224 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Will Turbo Terry score a touchdown against the Jets?

This poll is closed

  • 82%
    Yes
    (177 votes)
  • 17%
    No
    (38 votes)
215 votes total Vote Now

Poll

How many targets will Kelvin Harmon have on Sunday?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    0
    (6 votes)
  • 42%
    1 or 2
    (93 votes)
  • 50%
    3 or 4
    (110 votes)
  • 4%
    5 or more
    (9 votes)
218 votes total Vote Now