- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 15, 2019

LANDOVER — Dwayne Haskins kept his cool. As the pressure collapsed around him, as Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Germaine Pratt started to drag him down, the Redskins quarterback cocked back his arm and launched the ball into the air.

Before the 22-year-old could even get up, an open Robert Davis caught the pass — cruising into the end zone for the 55-yard score.

When Haskins lifted himself up the ground, he then bolted down the field to celebrate his success, his first ever NFL touchdown.

Haskins’ strike was the main highlight in Washington’s 23-13 loss against the Cincinnati Bengals. In his home debut, Haskins built upon his performance from the week prior — going 7 of 14 for 114 yards.

While he wasn’t as accurate as he was in the first week, Haskins cut down on his turnovers. Perhaps more importantly, he largely avoided the same types of mistakes.

The Redskins came into Thursday’s game with an understanding Haskins needed development, but were encouraged there were positive areas to build on. Though he was drafted 15th overall, Haskins started just one season at Ohio State. Washington had maintained Haskins would get a real chance to compete for the starting job, but the rookie has largely played with the reserves in camp.

After tossing two interceptions last week against the Cleveland Browns, the Redskins slightly adjusted their approach with the quarterback. Even when Haskins was not under center, the coaches had the quarterback standing just outside the huddle to hear how Case Keenum or Colt McCoy would call plays in order for Haskins to better learn the playbook.

Of the many issues Haskins needs to clean up, the Redskins want to see the rookie better adjust the protections at the line of scrimmage.

Haskins wasn’t perfect in this area again Thursday. He was sacked three times, including a play in which he fumbled at the Washington 25-yard line.

Still, Haskins got valuable playing time. He first entered the game with 5:19 left in the second quarter and didn’t exit until there were just under six minutes remaining in the game.

That should be viewed as a good thing, given the Redskins don’t know when Haskins will receive playing time in the regular season. He needs the reps until then. 

Here are some other non-Haskins takeaways:

Hello, defensive line

The Redskins’ defense was carved up last week on the opening drive in Cleveland, though that came with a large caveat: Most of Washington’s starters failed to play. That wasn’t the case this week. On three drives, the defense was a force — particularly along the defensive line.

The line produced near-constant pressure and 2018 first-rounder Daron Payne tipped Andy Dalton’s pass at the line of scrimmage, which was returned 96 yards for the touchdown by safety Montae Nicholson. Washington has invested significant draft capital into its defensive line and it by far looks to be its best unit.

Odd wide receiver rotation

The Redskins have been open about their admiration over their third-rounder Terry McLaurin, but they are apparently doing their best to hide him from the rest of the NFL. The wide receiver stayed on the sideline for the entirety of Thursday’s game — a week after playing just one snap against the Browns. McLaurin has dazzled in practice — displaying impressive speed and concise route running — but he hasn’t gotten to prove it in an actual game just yet.

Beyond McLaurin, the Redskins’ wideout rotation was confusing in general. Veteran Brian Quick got the start opposite Josh Doctson — instead of the team’s younger receivers like Cam Sims, Robert Davis and Kelvin Harmon. Paul Richardson (quad) and Trey Quinn (thumb) missed the game with injuries.

Keenum fails to make his case

Case Keenum had a big opportunity to virtually end Washington’s quarterback competition. Veteran Colt McCoy missed his second straight game with a leg injury, and Keenum could have strengthened his argument to be the starter with an impressive performance. Instead, Keenum was just 3 of 7 for 52 yards. Even more troubling, Keenum and the Redskins had the ball inside the Bengals‘ 50 on three different drives. Washington failed to score points each time.

Josh Harvey-Clemons, hard hitter

The Redskins are incredibly thin at inside linebacker and it was even more apparent when Shaun Dion Hamilton (chest) and fifth-rounder Cole Holcomb (shoulder) were held out. But with the others sidelined, third-year linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons stepped up. The 25-year-old led with seven tackles.

Penalties galore

It’s not officially the preseason until there are an excruciating amount of penalties called, and boy, did that happen Thursday — affecting both teams. The two teams combined for 22 penalties, with 12 called on Cincinnati and 10 against Washington. Coach Jay Gruden even challenged two pass interference calls — losing both of them. It wasn’t the best night for the referees.

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