Peter Hailey

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Dwayne Haskins has room to grow in a few areas, but this one might be the most crucial

Dwayne Haskins has room to grow in a few areas, but this one might be the most crucial

Dwayne Haskins is completing just 55-percent of his attempts as a pro quarterback so far, has thrown three touchdowns against seven interceptions and is averaging only 166 yards per start.

All of those numbers hint at how Haskins must grow as a passer in the NFL. However, those aspects are secondary to the area he needs to improve the most as he continues to see action for the Redskins.

The facet of his game that requires the most work is avoiding sacks. Yes, his accuracy and decision-making and choices in the red zone are all important, but none of those things will get better or reveal themselves if No. 7 is lying on his back and looking at the sky as much as he's doing so far.

The rookie has been dropped 22 times in his five appearances as starter, and 26 times overall. According to The Athletic, if you take the rate which Haskins is being sacked at as the team's primary signal caller and extrapolate it over a full schedule, it'd add up to the third-worst total in league history.  

So, yeah, that's extremely troublesome. 

On Wednesday, Haskins explained how his desire to be aggressive is partly causing this issue to be such an issue.

"Sometimes when I'm back there, I'm trying to find things deep or down the field instead of just finding the checkdown in the flat," he said.

As for how to remedy that, the 22-year-old told the media it's about being more aware of his immediate options.

"Just knowing where all my quick elements are when things happen fast and when things get on me," Haskins said.

Of course, each sack is its own entity, and not all of them fall on the guy with the ball. There have been instances this year where Haskins will go down and a replay will show an offensive lineman immediately getting beaten, the kind of sequence that will make any QB vulnerable. Not all of the negative plays are happening because of where Haskins is in his development.

However, to compare, Case Keenum was sacked just 12 times in his eight starts behind the same O-line. That's a significantly lower number.

Just like every other part of Haskins' skill set, this is something that should get sharper with experience. Every Sunday, assuming he gets a lot more, will lead to him becoming more adept at reading defenses, more proficient at adjusting protection calls and more prepared to find his outlet options.  

Keenum has seen all that there is to see in the NFL, while Haskins is just beginning that arduous process.

And, while Bill Callahan admitted he hates seeing the offense plagued by the sacks, the interim coach also detailed something beyond experience that could help Haskins limit them in the future.

"He's not a repetitive guy, a repetitive-mistake player, where you see continually the small mistakes over and over again," Callahan said. "He makes a mistake, he recognizes it, he moves on and you don't see a repetitive error come back into his game. There's been a lot of growth in that respect."

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The Redskins' offense has been bad all year, but they're atrocious on opening drives

The Redskins' offense has been bad all year, but they're atrocious on opening drives

No matter how you break it down — by quarter, by month, by time of day, by location, by whether the opponent has an animal mascot or a human mascot — the numbers show that the Redskins have a really ineffective offense. Currently, they're last in the NFL in points per game and yards per game.

They're bad all the time, honestly.

However, they're downright atrocious when it comes to their opening drives.

In Week 1 against the Eagles, the Redskins scored a touchdown on their opening possession. It was fun. The players had fun. The fans had fun. Everybody had fun.

But since then, they haven't notched a single TD on a first drive. In fact, they haven't converted a field goal, either.

Overall, in their 13 game-opening possessions on the year, Washington has that single end zone trip to go along with a missed kick, seven punts, two fumbles and two interceptions (one of which was taken back for a score).

What's the opposite of coming out hot? The 2019 Redskins' offense.

"I'm tired of the slow starts, our guys are, too," Bill Callahan said Wednesday. "That's the goal of the first drive of the game — try to jump ahead, get ahead, find a way to get on the board early. We haven't succeeded at that." 

The issue is registering with Dwayne Haskins, too. So, what can they possibly do to try to improve?

"Just trying to figure out a way we can move the ball early, not getting behind the chains, finding lanes and getting the ball out fast," the quarterback said. "It helps our defense when we come off fast and move the ball down the field and not put them in a tough scenario with having a short field."

Many have complained about the offense's run-first approach being too predictable under Callahan, and that's something that could be plaguing them at the beginning of their contests. Since he took over as interim coach, for example, the offense has run the ball on their first snap in six-of-eight matchups, including four-out-of-five with Haskins under center.

Of course, this is an area where Jay Gruden struggled as well, but his tendencies weren't as obvious. Plus, and yes, this is minutiae now, he did call two play-action shots in Weeks 2 and 4 that schemed up wide-open receivers that Case Keenum simply missed. He was also in charge for that lone touchdown in Philly.

The most obvious explanation for the problem, however, is one that can explain a lot of things this season: an overall lack of talent. As mentioned at the start of the story, it's not like the offense gets into a rhythm at any point, so their numbers will be underwhelming in any situation or sample.

That said, even with an inexperienced and undermanned group, there should be more production than one TD in 13 chances. Callahan told the media that "we put a lot of thought, focus and concentration" into the early-game plan. Clearly, it's not paying off.

In many ways, the Redskins have fallen behind the rest of the NFL over the past few months. The stats above show that, at least in one way, that's literally very true.  

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Running back is one position where things could look very different for the 2020 Redskins

Running back is one position where things could look very different for the 2020 Redskins

Not much has gone to plan for the 2019 Redskins. Congratulations, you won't read a more obvious thing all day.

Running back is one such spot on the team where the preseason expectations haven't been met. A surprise benching in Week 1, injuries and inconsistent production have plagued what was supposed to be one of the most stacked positions on the roster.

Because of those issues, there may be a lot of RB turnover this offseason, leading to what could be a different-looking depth chart in 2020.

The main reason for that possible shuffling is Derrius Guice's unfortunate health problems. Guice has actually been placed on injured reserve twice since Week 1, with the second trip to I.R. ending his year. If you count exhibition contests, he's suited up for the Burgundy and Gold seven times as a pro and has had to leave three of those contests with knee injuries.

There was so much hope that Guice would be able to prove himself this time around and convince the Redskins he could be their go-to option for the future, and when he dominated the Panthers for 129 yards and two scores, his long-discussed talent and potential popped.

But with a torn ACL, a torn meniscus and a sprained MCL already in the NFL, the franchise can't move forward with him as their surefire No. 1 back. This was the season where he could've seized the job, yet instead, indications are he'll need to be grouped together with other pieces.

Elsewhere in the backfield, Chris Thompson very well could be playing in his last three games for Washington. The 29-year-old is incredibly helpful in a lot of ways, but he, too, has difficulty staying on the field. After seven campaigns with the organization, it might be time for both sides to move on.

Then there's Bryce Love, the team's fourth-rounder who's essentially been redshirted as a rookie. The Stanford product has to show that he can recover from his own knee struggles — he had another surgery on it in late October — but he's got a lot of speed and should be more than ready to be a factor in 2020.

Oddly enough, Adrian Peterson has yet again been the steadiest running back for the Redskins. After Jay Gruden's decision to sit him for the opener, the 34-year-old has rebounded and shown he still can be a valuable asset. He's under contract and seems like a logical choice to keep in town for one more season. 

So, when added all together, the team has quite a few questions at running back. They've got to decide whom to trust out of a crop that includes someone who's super-skilled but often dinged up, a mainstay who could be on his way out, a totally unproven draft selection and an aging but still useful veteran, while also considering possibly acquiring other bodies.

Coming into 2019, RB looked like an area of strength for the Redskins. Now, nearing the end of 2019, it appears to be an area of mystery.

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