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Film study: Haskins has what it takes to succeed with the 'Skins

Washington made a franchise-altering decision by rolling the dice and drafting Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins with the 15th overall pick in late April. The move was widely praised since the Redskins have uncertainty at the quarterback position and no long-term answers in Alex Smith, Colt McCoy, and Case Keenum.

The Redskins received positive media coverage for the move while the New York Giants got blasted by analysts and fans on TV and social media after drafting Duke quarterback Daniel Jones with the sixth pick of the first round, but none of that matters. In a few years, it won't matter where these players were drafted, but how they performed. Before Haskins and Jones take the field, one can only project and speculate how their careers will play out, but nothing is for certain.

That doesn't mean there's no merit in projecting and speculating, however, which is what I'll do in a detailed film study of Washington's new signal caller.

I’m evaluating Haskins strictly based on statistics, game logs, and what I observe on film, not character, personality, or intangibles. To do this, I looked at Haskins' game logs to find games against quality competition that jump out, then watching their every throw from game film found on YouTube. I’m aware that watching four or five games of film isn’t enough to make a fully informed call on a player, but scouts who watch hundreds of hours of film only get the quarterback position right about half the time, and since I don't have hundreds of hours to spare, this will have to do.

Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins throws on the run against Washington in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 2019. Picture: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Who is Dwayne Haskins?

Height and weight: 6'3, 220

Career stats: 14 starts and 22 games, 70.0 completion %, 345 yards per start, 9.1 yards per attempt, TD/INT ratio 2.53, 2.2 yards per rush

Redshirt sophomore year stats: 373/533 (70.0%), 4831 yards, 9.1 YPA, 50 touchdowns, eight interceptions, 3rd in Heisman voting

27–26 win vs. Penn State, 9/29/18

Haskins started the game confident, making the right reads and taking what the defense gave him. Near the start of the second quarter, Haskins hit his receiver on a shallow post route with a well-thrown ball that hit the receiver on the hands, popped up into the air, and was intercepted by Penn State. The ball placement was a tad high, but otherwise, Haskins executed the three-step route timing throw perfectly and got unlucky.

Haskins was accurate and threw with anticipation in the face of pressure. In the first half, his only throw over 10 yards was deflected and intercepted. The Buckeyes scored a touchdown to pull within six by half time after Penn State fumbled at its own 25-yard line. Haskins is able to step up in the pocket, make the right read, and deliver the ball where he needs it to be. Ohio State got the ball down 12 with under eight minutes to play in a hostile environment.

Arguably his best play of the game came on a first down just inside Penn State territory. Haskins got a bit turned around after faking the handoff on play action, as he pivoted with his right shoulder forward although he’s right-handed. He steps up in the pocket and dodges a pair of pass rushers while keeping his eye level down the field.

He sees a (barely) open receiver just as a defender about to hit him, but he releases the ball jumping and leaning right while throwing left. The receiver makes an incredible play on the ball, wiggles away from the defender and escapes for a 47-yard touchdown. While the receiver deserves credit for the touchdown with his yards after the catch, Haskins deserves credit for turning what could’ve easily been a broken play into a successful play with his pocket mobility, toughness, and arm strength.

Haskins leads Ohio State down the field for the winning score on the next series. The Buckeyes use "extended handoffs" in the form of bubble screens to move the ball down the field and are successful due to their talented playmakers and great blocking. This is ultimately how Ohio State works its way down the field and scores to put the game away. This was far from a perfect performance from Haskins and Ohio State, as the team finished just 4/17 on third down. However, Haskins makes a few NFL-caliber throws, is comfortable and confident under pressure, and leads his team to victory.

Stat line: 22/39, 270 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT

49–20 loss vs. Purdue, 10/20/18

On a third-and-9 early in the first quarter, Purdue shows blitz and appears to be lined up in man-coverage, leaving no one over the middle. Right before the snap, Haskins motions his outside receiver to the left in and the Boilermakers shift from to a zone as three defenders pull back from the line of scrimmage.

Interestingly, it appears Purdue only had 10 defenders on the field, as a safety frantically motioned to the sideline as Haskins snapped the ball. For whatever reason, Haskins quickly scrambles — which isn’t his strength — instead of letting the play develop. Purdue only rushed three and he would’ve had plenty of time to wait for a receiver to get open. This was a puzzling, uncharacteristic mental gaffe for Haskins.

On the next series, Haskins sails the ball way past an open receiver running up the seam. There was a flag on the defense, so the play would’ve stood. The announcers mentioned the passer had his wind to his back, but that’s no excuse for that blatant miss. Later in the drive on third and goal, Haskins throws late to an open receiver, which results in an incompletion instead of a touchdown.

At the end of the first half, Haskins makes a great throw on a corner route to his X-receiver, who initially turns inside instead of outside and is unable to secure the catch. Haskins never fully seemed in sync with his receivers and made a few puzzling, lazy decisions as the game went along.

Purdue did an excellent job of keeping the ball in front of them and not letting Haskins beat them over the top. The Boilermakers were great in coverage for most of the day and tackled well while shutting down the Buckeyes in the red zone. This was far from Haskins’ best game, but he compensated for errant misses and decisions with a few beautiful passes thrown with anticipation and showed flashes of NFL potential.

Stat line: 49/73, 470 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT

62–39 win vs. Michigan, 11/24/18

Statistically, Haskins was nearly flawless against archrival No. 4 Michigan, but after reviewing the tape, he wasn’t perfect accuracy-wise. He missed a wide open receiver on a wheel route early in the second quarter and shows a frustrating inconsistency with his accuracy. He’ll release the ball seconds in advance and put it exactly where it needs to be on one play, then miss a receiver deep a few plays later. This isn’t a deal-breaker for a passer that completed 70 percent of his passes in his first year as a starter, but it’s cause for some concern and may be enough for me to advise teams picking near the top of the draft to stay away.

Haskins showed his physicality on a pair of runs, though it’s clear from watching him that he’s not a natural runner. He’s not fast by any means but has good feet in the pocket and doesn’t shy away from contact, either in the pocket or on the ground.

Haskins makes a beautiful throw with time winding down in the first half on a wheel route, making up for the one he missed earlier in the game and one that wasn’t open just two plays earlier. On second-and-goal with 12 seconds to go in the half, a mindboggling play call took Haskins out of the game and called a running play for freshman quarterback Tate Martell. Ohio State picked up a field goal to extend their lead and would end up pulling away in the second half.

Early in the second half, Martell oversaw three plays inside the 5-yard line that totaled three yards, an inexplicable coaching decision considering Ohio State had its Heisman finalist healthy in a close rivalry game. This highlighted Haskins’ lack of running ability and how much of a non-factor he is as a runner. It’s something that will almost certainly never change.

Haskins was credited with a "pass" on a touch-pass that went for a 78-yard score. That certainly padded his stat line and shows why watching the film is so critical when evaluating players. Overall, Haskins had a great game against a team that entered the game as the No. 1 defense in the country. He wasn’t pressured much and greatly benefitted from playing with some of the best skill-position players in college football. Haskins showed against Michigan he has enough upside to be a potential NFL starting quarterback.

Stat line: 20/31, 396 yards, 6 TD, 0 INT

28–23 win vs. Washington, 1/1/19

Ohio State came into the game trying to attack Washington’s strong secondary and tough zone defense. Haskins missed two receivers early in the game on a downfield pass and a screen but responded with a touchdown pass on the second drive of the game. After identifying a coverage breakdown, Haskins easily found his receiver running down the seam uncovered.

Like Michigan a few weeks earlier, Washington completely mismanages the end of the first half and allows Ohio State to navigate down the field and score. The Wolverines only surrendered a field goal, but the Huskies gave up a touchdown that ended up being a deciding factor in the game. Haskins took advantage of a soft prevent defense with precise downfield throws.

Ohio State held onto their big lead and closed the game rather conservatively on offense, as they punted on their final five drives with just one first down in that span. The Buckeyes won thanks to their hot start and excellent close to the first half. Haskins was very accurate for most of the game and showed the touch required to succeed in the NFL.

Stat line: 25/37, 251 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT

Conclusion

Dwayne Haskins lit it up in his lone season as a starter at Ohio State after redshirting his first year with the team and playing just eight games in 2017. Like North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky, a lack of experience as a starter is one of Haskins’ only clear question marks.

For a one-year starter, Haskins proved to be polished, poised, and productive. Instead of running the spread or option offense like many colleges, Ohio State ran a pro-style passing attack with Haskins. He operated out of the shotgun but, for a one-year starter, was clean with his footwork and mechanics on three-step drops and got the ball out quickly.

He’s an accurate, anticipatory thrower on short to intermediate throws with an outstanding feel for the game, which may be his greatest strength. He made checks in pass protection at the line of scrimmage and has a good feel for the game considering he’s an inexperienced player. Haskins can manipulate defenders with his eyes, quickly recognize mismatches in man coverage, and figure out weaknesses in zone coverage.

Haskins has a very good, NFL-caliber arm and throws with tantalizing potential on passes with perfect touch, but also missed open receivers down the field on multiple occasions. His eye-popping completion percentage in college accurately reflects his success in his ability to run the offense and move the chains — Ohio State ranked 12th in third-down conversion rate in 2018.

Like nearly all offenses, Haskins completed a good deal of short check-down throws and screens, but Ohio State was much more of a downfield throwing offense than most teams. Haskins showed flashes of elite accuracy but also had some bad misses. If he can consistently achieve the former instead of the latter, he can be one of the better quarterbacks in the sport.

Due to his lack of starts in college, Haskins may not be ready to lead an NFL team from Day 1, but his style of play will translate very well to the next level. All rookies need time to adjust, but Haskins should transition quicker than most, as he’s already shown the necessary traits to succeed at the next level. He usually made the right decisions with the ball and didn’t take many sacks or force negative plays. He’s careful with the ball and turned the ball over just 10 times in 14 starts, which isn’t anything out of the ordinary for a young player.

Haskins doesn’t have the kind of athleticism or arm strength that jumps out on film, so it’s unlikely he’ll ever be a top-tier quarterback. It’s difficult to judge his ceiling without knowing where he’ll land, as he could develop into an above-average starter in the right situation. I don’t see a clear, obvious comparison for Haskins at the next level and I don’t want to force one. Haskins has a high floor and will — worst-case scenario— be a competent NFL backup. He has the skills necessary to be a successful NFL quarterback and has very little chance of flaming out.

Due to his level of production, ability to throw down the field, feel for the game without much experience, and flashes of consistent accuracy, I think Haskins was well-deserving of a mid-1st round pick. Until he takes the field in burgundy and gold, whether he lives up to that billing is anyone's guess.