Sure, Ron Rivera wants competition, but when it comes to quarterbacks Dwayne Haskins and Alex Smith, the Washington Football Team head coach is looking for different things.
In just his second year, Rivera wants growth and development from Haskins. As for Smith, coming off a 21-month absence after a broken leg that required 17 surgeries, Rivera needs to see something else entirely.
While some of that is obvious, Rivera provided exceptional detail on what he watches for in young quarterbacks compared to a veteran when it comes to accuracy during practice:
That’s secondary right now because young quarterbacks, what you’re going to find is their brains, their minds, they’re going to see things before their body is in position to do it. With guys like Alex, if you watch Alex and how mechanically fluid he is, here and here, as he’s turning everything is moving together. His eyes, his shoulders, his hips, his feet are all moving together. But when you watch young quarterbacks, and I learned this in Carolina with [former Carolina offensive coordinator] Rob Chudzinski as we were talking about the development of Cam Newton. Watch how certain parts of his body aren’t in sync. His eyes might be over here, but his shoulders are still over here. He’s got to whip around to throw the ball, his tendency is to be late. Sometimes he gets ahead where his shoulders are already turned, his eyes are over here and he throws the ball way ahead. That’s what you’re trying to find with young quarterbacks. Is their body keeping up with their eyes. Is their decision making being in position to throw the ball properly. You’ll hear us talk about mechanics, you’ll hear us talking about footwork. Those are things that we’re looking for. As long as he’s making good reads, as long as he’s making good decisions, you’ll feel like your guys are progressing because you’re watching tape and you’re watching him throw it where you want him to throw it to that receiver, but he didn’t lay it out where it needed to be thrown. That’s what we’re looking for from our young quarterbacks.
For football nerds that's fascinating. It's actual intricate detail in the process of developing a young passer and what a veteran QB can do to differentiate during a camp battle.
But is Rivera actually watching a camp battle? It doesn't seem like it, yet anyway.
"We’re very comfortable with his movement skills right now," Rivera said of Smith after Tuesday's practice.
Smith only worked in individual and 7v7 drills, nothing with a defensive line on the field.
"We’re trying to slowly introduce him back into football in terms of being out there with other players. For the last few months, all he’s really done has been working out on his own, throwing to trainers and staff. Now he’s actually integrated where he’s working with other players."
Until Smith works against a defensive line his comeback will stall. That puts Washington in a tricky spot too since Smith is now on the active roster. While cuts won't come for a few more weeks, being on the active roster limits what Washington can do with Smith if he's unable to play. There is time to answer these questions, but the situation is complicated.
As for Haskins, his growth seems obvious.
Any drill that involved a quarterback, Haskins went first. In team drills it seemed like Haskins got all the work with the projected starting offensive line, and largely, he impressed during the first padded practice of the season.
"I thought Dwayne did some really good things. I thought he made some really good decisions," Rivera said. "We look at this offense and with these quarterbacks, with all of these quarterbacks, we’re going to talk about decision making more than we’re going to be talking about anything else. I think that’s really important."
Haskins and Smith. Smith and Haskins. Don't forget Kyle Allen either. Rivera has his hands full, even if he's looking for different things from the three players.
if they hope to surprise some teams this fall.