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Redskins’ young trio shows potential, but long after Jets game was out of hand

Redskins’ young trio shows potential, but long after Jets game was out of hand

The game was long since over when the young Redskins made their presence felt. 
 
Quarterback Dwayne Haskins and running back Derrius Guice combined for their first career touchdowns. Wide receiver Terry McLaurin had a 67-yard catch wiped out by a holding penalty, but later in the game made a spectacular play on a ball thrown 41 yards down field. 
 
That trio, for now, comprises what little hope Washington has for its immediate future. But if you chose to see their performance in the second half of a 34-17 loss to the woeful New York Jets as a small sign of progress, don’t bother. They don’t.
 
“It was okay. It wasn’t good enough,” Haskins said when asked to evaluate his play. “We didn’t win.” 
 
If Guice seemed hard on himself afterward, too, there was good reason. At halftime the Jets led 20-3. New York punched in two quick touchdowns early in the fourth quarter and it was 34-3. Nothing that came after by any player really mattered.
 
“It was embarrassing,” veteran linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said.
 
Kerrigan is 31 now. He’s seen far too many days like this in his nine years with the Redskins. Haskins was making his second career NFL start. He’s not used to losing like this. He and McLaurin went to Ohio State, not Rutgers. Guice was a star at LSU. Kerrigan knows a hard lesson that they do not: You don’t control much in the NFL.
 
It’s hard for any rookie to see a bright future when you walk off the field drubbed by a 3-7 team. Garbage time numbers don’t do much for anyone – even for top draft picks who should be the foundation going forward.   
 
“No, because it’s not just about us,” Guice said. “We’ve got to have linemen up there that’s going to block for all us. We’ve got to have all of that. It’s more than just three people.” 
 
Haskins completed nine passes in the first half for just 52 yards. He was sacked four times. There are plenty of things he needs to learn about playing quarterback at this level and pocket awareness is one of them. 
 
Guice played behind veteran Adrian Peterson in his return from a torn meniscus in his right knee during the first game of the season on Sept. 8. He carried the ball just four times for 16 yards in the first half. 
 
McLaurin barely had time to celebrate his 67-yard catch with 13:22 to go in the second quarter. Instead of setting up the Redskins with 1st-and-10 at the 12, a holding call and unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on right guard Brandon Scherff made it 1st-and-24 at the 6. It was the story of the day.
 
By the end of the afternoon the numbers didn’t look so bad. McLaurin, a 2019 third-round draft pick, had three catches for 69 yards. Guice, last year’s second-round draft pick, showed how dynamic he can be taking a screen pass 45 yards for a touchdown. For a player who missed his rookie season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee and missed eight games this season with the meniscus tear, it had to feel great. 
 
“A lot of emotions going through my head at the time,” Guice said. “But I knew I had to put it aside because we were losing. It’s not about me. It’s about the team losing that really stinks. It took the excitement out of it.” 
 
Haskins completed 19 of 35 passes for 214 yards and two touchdowns. There were more big plays than in his first start, a 24-9 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Nov. 3 before the bye week. 
 
But his numbers were ugly after a drive stalled with 3:38 left in the third quarter following another sack. While the Redskins punted, Haskins gathered his offense together on the sideline and gave an impassioned speech caught by NBC television cameras. It was a fire we haven’t seen from him before.  
 
“He’s a guy that’s taking on a role and we’re all following,” Guice said. “Like I always tell him ‘It’s your offense, you’ve got to tell me where to go with protections, tell the line where to go, tell us what routes to run. That’s on you.’”
 
Added Guice: “He has to lead us and we’ve got to all follow. It’s team, it’s a team, it’s a team. We’ve got to play as a team, we’ve got to win as a team and we’ve got to lose as a team. It’s on all of us. We all made mistakes, we all made errors. We’ve got to fix it fast.” 
 
Haskins’ numbers before his outburst were 12-for-20, 95 yards. In the fourth quarter they were 7-for-15, 119 yards, two touchdowns. Encouraging? Sure. But there’s so much more work to be done for the small group that comprises this 1-9 team’s future. 
 
The veterans who have been around, who have lost more than they’ve won, know promise and potential isn’t worth much in a league with such a short shelf life. The young players aren’t going to turn this around on their own. They need to play better and they need help.   
 
“You have guys who have been in the league a long time. As a young dude with a new voice, you have to earn their trust,” Haskins said. “You have to earn that ability to ask for what you see out there. As the game went on telling them what I want and what I think would help us make plays. They started listening to me, but I have to keep earning that.”  
 

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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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Clinton Portis among group of NFL players charged by Justice Department with defrauding NFL health care program

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Clinton Portis among group of NFL players charged by Justice Department with defrauding NFL health care program

The Justice Department charged Clinton Portis and nine other former NFL players with defrauding a health care program for retired players.

The news broke Thursday morning when the Eastern District of Kentucky alleged that the retired players submitted fraudulent claims for medical equipment costing between $40,000-50,000 to the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan. 

Former Redskins cornerback and first-round pick Carlos Rogers is also charged along with Robert McCune, John Eubanks, Tamarick Vanover, Ceandris Brown, James Butler, Frederick Bennett, Correll Buckhalter and Etric Pruitt. Joe Horn and Reche Caldwell are also expected to be charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud.

Portis' attorney Mark Dycio said of the charges (via The Washington Post): "Clinton Portis had no knowledge that his participation in what he believed to be an NFL sanctioned medical reimbursement program was illegal. He is completely taken aback by this indictment and will move forward with the process of clearing his good name and those of his fellow NFL alumni."

According to the indictment, the claims filed between June 2017 and December 2018 totaled $3.9 million and the health care plan paid out more than $3.4 million.

Portis played seven years for the Redskins from 2004 to 2010, rushing for nearly 7,000 yards and 46 touchdowns. He remains a fan favorite and currently works for the Redskins Broadcast Network. 

A Redskins spokesperson was not immediately available for comment. 

Stay tuned as this is a developing story. 

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