Gabe Ward: I don’t know how familiar you are with Redskins history — specifically the open disdain from fans directed toward the owner and front office for decisions made in the past — but it’s a thing. So, pre-draft, when there were reports that Dan Snyder ‘had taken over the first round of the draft’ and was looking to trade into the top 3 to select Dwyane Haskins, no one was thrilled as we all have PTSD from the RG3 trade and what that decision cost the franchise. When Haskins fell, it was like a dream; at least, personally, it was surreal for me — I could not believe it. Not only did I think Haskins was the best QB at the time of the draft, but I also think he has the most potential. I say all that to ask if you have any best guesses or have any information as to why a potential franchise QB falls all the way to 15 like that?
Geoff Hammersley: Like you, I was surprised with Haskins dropping to No. 15. Scheme wise, Kyler Murray going No. 1 to Arizona made sense. Nick Bosa, a Buckeye, going to San Francisco was a sure thing after Murray went No. 1. Honestly, I thought the New York Giants would be the place Haskins ultimately got picked. It had seemed likely ever since he announced his entry into NFL Draft after the Rose Bowl victory. But then the Giants went and got Daniel Jones. I then thought maybe Denver or Cincinnati were going to roll the dice on Haskins and draft him to be the heir apparent on either squad. But Denver traded down with Pittsburgh, and the Bengals took an offensive tackle—solidifying their commitment to Andy Dalton at QB.
I guess most of the teams were targeting positions of need for their first round draft pick, which makes sense. I can kinda see why the Giants took Jones over Haskins on paper, but after hearing how much they knew about Haskins, like what conference he plays in, I have some questions on how they evaluate draft prospects and how deep their research goes. Clearly, it’s not as deep as what was dramatized in the Kevin Costner movie Draft Day.
Now, would Haskins had been worth trading into the top-5 for? I don’t know. The Redskins got soaked on the Rams/RGIII deal in 2012, so there should’ve at least been a little bit of caution if they were about to bet the farm again, moving up to get a QB. Fortunately, it didn’t have to happen that way, and the Redskins may have found their franchise QB of the future.
Gabe Ward: Now that I have a more formal chance to stand on my soapbox, one of the more annoying things I’ve read from others about Haskins is this notion that he won’t be a success because of the history, specifically, of recent OSU QBs. Could you please take this opportunity to speak to the people about how Haskins is a different prospect from, say, Cardale Jones or J.T. Barrett? As a corollary to that, could you also take the time to tell us about the OSU passing offense as a whole this year and how Haskins was able to have so much success in it?
Geoff Hammersley: The Ohio State offense is completely different than what had been seen in years past. Ryan Day, the new head coach, has brought a more Air Raid-esque approach since he arrived to the program in 2017 as a QB coach and then coordinator. Traditionally, OSU has been a run-dominated program. Woody Hayes’s offense in the 1960s was built around ‘three yards and a cloud of dust’. Jim Tressel’s offenses in the 2000s always featured an NFL caliber running back at some point. Quarterbacks throwing for 4,000 yards in a season was something that didn’t happen at Ohio State. Even Troy Smith, who won a Heisman in 2006, was a dual-threat kind of QB.
Urban Meyer brought a spread option offense to OSU, and that’s where the likes of Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett shined. The first outlier to that era was Cardale Jones, who took over after both Miller and Barrett got hurt in the lead up to the Buckeyes’ national championship in 2015.
I think the difference between Cardale and Dwayne is that Dwayne was a more complete QB during his OSU career. Cardale could throw the deep ball, but touch passes and accuracy were trouble spots. Dwayne picked apart defenses with his throwing, and was a bona fide pocket passer. Cardale was the human equivalent of a Mack truck, and would level a defender. Dwayne, is not so much of a runner — but he did develop that ability toward the end of the season.
Gabe Ward: The above question can have a lot of threads in it, but one I want to touch on (if you didn’t already) is to tell us how you saw the talent distribution at OSU in the passing offense? Specifically what I mean is that some contend that the OSU receivers were really good and Haskins had the benefit of completing a lot of easy throws because of their ability to get open and how the offense was designed. Do you see it that way, or would you say Haskins made his guys better? (Parris Campbell and Terry McLaurin certainly weren’t having the same success in 2017 imo).
Geoff Hammersley: I think Haskins made the personnel around him better. Also, I think a more open playbook (with Ryan Day being the facilitator over Urban Meyer) helped the passing game, too. In 2017, J.T. Barrett was the catalyst of the offense in the sense that the QB read-option was the bread and butter. Depending upon what he saw, he’d either get it to the running back, take it himself, or, sometimes, pass it. With Haskins, the QB was still the catalyst of the offense, but in a different way. When Haskins dropped back, you knew he was passing it. Even though defenses knew he was passing, he’d still find a way to throw for 350-plus yards.
The receivers were good, but they weren’t 2014 good. That season saw Michael Thomas (now on the Saints), Devin Smith, Jeff Heuerman and Evan Spencer catching footballs.
Parris Campbell and Terry McLaurin were good receivers, especially with Campbell as the H-back, but with a true passing QB in Haskins, I think everyone in the receiving unit got better because they were getting more chances to catch the ball.
Gabe Ward: If I can chase another thread, some worry about the amount of success Haskins can have with the current Redskins receivers. Aside from his teammate McLaurin, who was also selected by the Redskins, Haskins, who I assume gets on the field this year, will be throwing to Josh Doctson, Paul Richardson, Jordan Reed, and some combination of Trey Quinn, Kelvin Harmon, and another guy. It’s not an impressive group in practice or on paper, largely due to injuries. Do you think Haskins can elevate these guys in Jay Gruden’s West Coast offense?
Geoff Hammersley: If Haskins is to be a good QB in the NFL, he’ll have to. Having McLaurin in the fold helps tremendously, as he’ll have someone he knows.
The most important thing to me is giving your QB time to make the throw. If Haskins is playing as a rookie, that becomes paramount. If he can make the reads, then I can easily see him raising the profiles of Doctson and the rest of the corps.
Strategy wise, it may be best to have some of the playbook operating with screens or quick passes to the slot. That’s where Haskins destroyed Penn State last season. But, successful screens require good blocking. Haskins can only do so much; the wide receivers have to hold up their end of the bargain for Washington to be a real contender in the NFC East.
Gabe Ward: Could you tell us about Haskins’ strengths and weaknesses as you see them? Do you think he is an accurate thrower? Do you think he is unafraid to push the ball downfield (and is that also a bad thing)? How is his leadership? What are the key things you think he needs to improve on in the NFL?
Geoff Hammersley: Arm strength is a definite plus, as is his accuracy. He hit 70 percent of his passes and had 4,831 yards last season. He didn’t make too many mistakes passing—he only had eight interceptions against 50 touchdowns. Also — and I think this is the big one — he didn’t lose the game for Ohio State. In the Purdue loss, where OSU got rolled 49-20, he had 470 yards of passing (49-of-73), a pair of touchdowns and a pick. You can’t blame him for the that lone loss of his career.
He’s a natural passer, so I think there is some willingness to air the ball out. When he does, he doesn’t make an overwhelming amount of mistakes. He’s had some overthrows, but what QB doesn’t at the college level?
A weakness is facing pocket pressure. A few times last season, he took sacks (and fumbles) by staying too long in the pocket. Now in the NFL, he’ll be facing the best of the best each week, so he’ll have to improve his situational awareness when blitzes occur and when the pocket completely collapses.
Overall though, I think he was, by far, the best QB in the Big Ten. He made big plays, and guided Ohio State to a 13-1 record.
Gabe Ward: You may have noticed in the draft profile of Haskins I linked you to that he was compared to Alex Smith. Having had Alex Smith play for the Redskins before his unfortunate injury, and with all due respect to him, we are hoping for better. Who would be your player comp for Haskins, considering his potential?
Geoff Hammersley: I’ve seen some people compare him to Drew Bledsoe. I tend to agree with that comparison. But if I had to compare Haskins to someone currently in the league, I like to believe he’s a Joe Flacco a la the Baltimore years. He can throw the ball, and at times will take the game into his hands.
I go back to last season’s Penn State game where Haskins showed his ability to guide the team from the brink of disaster to a colossal road victory. Flacco did that with the Ravens, especially when the whole “elite” conversation was taking place at the time of the Super Bowl run in 2013.
Gabe Ward: On draft night, it was striking to see Haskins demeanor. We found out more later, but it appeared that when the Redskins selected him he looked less than excited. Later, we were told that it was a look likely of disappointment that he didn’t go higher, as I’m sure he expected to be selected before Daniel Jones. He spoke the now infamous words ‘League done messed up”. Can you share with us any insights you have into Haskins as a leader of the offense and how he will use this as fuel once he gets his chance? Would you describe him as a guy who others believe in? Can he fire up the guys?
Geoff Hammersley: I don’t have any doubts that he can lead an offense. With all the things happening to Ohio State last season in regards to Meyer, you wouldn’t have known it by how the team was playing. They could’ve easily packed it up after the Purdue loss, but they didn’t.
Gabe Ward: Can you touch on the experience concern surrounding Haskins? He is a one year starter who definitely won’t have the same amount of success facing the defenses of the NFC East as he had in college. How do you think he will respond to failure and adversity as such a young player in one of the bigger NFL markets?
Geoff Hammersley: I think the adversity is less about Haskins and more about how coaching is able to keep morale up. The last time Washington made the playoffs was the 2015 season, and the last time they got out of Wild Card weekend was during the 2005 campaign.
Personally, I wouldn’t put a rookie Haskins in a live regular season game unless you absolutely had to. Let him learn the playbook, system, etc. If he’s the franchise QB, then you have to let him develop. If that means you got to go with a combination of Alex Smith, Colt McCoy and/or Case Keenum this season, then that’s what I would do.
Gabe Ward: If you could give us a few words to describe the kind of player the Redskins are getting in Haskins what would they be?
Geoff Hammersley: Someone looking to prove the doubters wrong. He slipped down the draft board, and went to a rival of the Giants. The cherry on top is that he’s going to his hometown team.
I want to thank Geoff again for his time spent answering my questions about Haskins. This was the first opportunity I got to feature a QB in this series, so there was a lot to cover. In my opinion, Haskins was the best QB in the draft, by far, and it will be very interesting to watch his career develop in D.C. I hope he’s given every opportunity to grow, and I believe that, as soon as he steps on the field and throws his first touchdown, he ought to generate the kind of excitement at the position we haven’t seen in a few years. As a formatting note, I would have liked to have included Geoff in the main byline as I have done in years past, but the new editor restricts permissions to do that. This is, at minimum, a 50/50 endeavor, with the bulk of the thinking and writing coming from the people gracious enough to answer me, and I want to make sure they get their credit. I’ll likely be including this note for the rest of the series.