When Dwayne Haskins first takes the field for the Redskins against the Bills this Sunday, he'll do so with the whole game ahead of him and a week of practice with the starters behind him. He won't be coming in with only 30 minutes to work with nor will he be coming in to a moment he didn't fully expect.
That's because Haskins will be Washington's starting quarterback in Week 9 for its matchup in Buffalo, which is an obvious and potentially vital difference from his first two NFL experiences. It'll be the Dwayne Show, not the Case Keenum Show featuring a surprise appearance from the rookie.
Those around him feel that fact will benefit him greatly.
"I think it's huge for a quarterback to know," Bill Callahan told the media on Friday. "I think it's important that he knows he's the starter, that he goes up there with a mindset that he is a leader of this offense and he's got everybody on his shoulders. I know he's going to accept that responsibility and do as well as he can."
Keenum suffered a concussion during Washington's loss in Minnesota, meaning Haskins had been receiving the majority of reps with the first-stringers since Wednesday. That on-field exposure will no doubt matter, but Kevin O'Connell believes the studying from Friday to kickoff — studying that the 22-year-old understands will directly affect his performance this time around — might be just as helpful for Haskins.
"Mentally, this is where his preparation needs to be at its highest to be able to lock in what he's going to do on Sunday," O'Connell said.
Terry McLaurin has known the passer for a while and starred with him at Ohio State. This contest with the Bills will be that duo's first true opportunity to pair up and take on a pro defense. And according to McLaurin, Haskins isn't taking the chance lightly.
"It's been very business-like, very serious," the wideout said of Haskins' attitude. "He's been really working on his command in the huddle. I feel like that's very important, because that permeates throughout the whole offense. That gives the O-line confidence, gives everybody confidence that you come in, you know the call, you know what you're looking at and you can go out and execute. I feel like that's very big for him."
That command is something that's been questioned when it comes to the 15th overall pick thus far. His interceptions — four in just 22 attempts — are certainly concerning, but in the preseason and the action he saw versus the Giants and the Vikings, there were some snaps where it looked like his teammates were totally unsure of what to do.
Is that the type of flaw that can be fixed, or at least mitigated, thanks to a full week of intense focus from Haskins? The Burgundy and Gold are hoping so, while the Bills' stout defense will be happy to test him and see for themselves.
There's still plenty that must be answered when it comes to the signal caller, and while Sunday will act as solid place to check his progress, much is unknown about him now and much will still be unknown about him after.
One thing that's clear, though, is how hard Haskins is on himself, particularly when it comes to his mistakes. He wants to be excellent — like, really, really excellent — yet he wasn't in his debut or follow-up effort.
Yes, the knowledge that he's the No. 1 option could very well lead him to better overall results and perhaps a win, but it's likely he'll still have his slip-ups at Buffalo. McLaurin wants him to be aware of that and not let it get in the way of his output.
"I just told him good, bad or indifferent, you've got to be able to shake it off and go to the next play," McLaurin explained. "I know he's the ultimate competitor, but whether he throws a touchdown, we have negative plays, it's the course of a game, so he has to be prepared for anything."
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