ASHBURN — Every snap in the Redskins’ quarterback competition is an opportunity to impress. At Monday’s OTA session, veteran Case Keenum got the first series of reps and then first-rounder Dwayne Haskins would take the field, repeating the same plays.
But if you’re looking for a clear front-runner early on, well, that will have to wait.
Coach Jay Gruden said it’s going to be a “long process” to determine next year’s starter, with each quarterback having to learn the system first. Keenum and Haskins are both new to Gruden’s offense, given both passers were acquired this offseason.
“We have to grade them based on production out here every day,” Gruden said. “Every day is a new grade, every day you see how they’re developing, see how they’re getting better, see if they’re making the same mistakes over and over. But it’s a process.”
That process began with Keenum taking snaps with the “starters” — however, the team was missing so many high-profile players at the voluntary practice that it would be a stretch to call them that. For his part, Keenum resorted to mostly short throws and check downs for the afternoon.
Haskins, on the other hand, had a notable zip on his throws, pushing the ball downfield. The Redskins drafted Haskins with the 15th overall pick, in part, because of his arm. At Ohio State, the 22-year-old averaged 9.1 yards per attempt last season.
But the rookie wasn’t perfect. He was picked off by rookie cornerback Jimmy Moreland after receiver Terry McLaurin bobbled the catch. And though contact is not permitted, Haskins would have been sacked on multiple occasions because he failed to release the ball.
“When you know where your eyes are supposed to be, it makes it a lot easier being able to read safety keys and read protections,” Haskins said. “You play fast when you know what you’re doing. … When I’m on my Ps and Qs, I feel pretty good about it.”
Haskins is not only trying to win the starting job, he’s also trying to get used to the NFL. With only 14 college starts, Haskins rarely had to take a snap from under center, which won’t be the case with the Redskins. Haskins, too, will have to learn Gruden’s terminology and get used to calling plays in a huddle.
That’s where Keenum, for now, will have the advantage. On his fifth team in six years, the 31-year-old has studied and executed a number of different offenses.
Keenum is used to competing for a starting job. In 2016, he beat out Jared Goff — that year’s first overall pick — to win the Los Angeles Rams’ starting job. He’s also had competitions in Minnesota and Houston.
“I’ve always treated it the same every time,” said Keenum, who started all 16 games for the Denver Broncos in 2018. “I compete with myself extremely hard. I compete with guys around me. I’m coming out here to do my best every single day and then build on that tomorrow. Learn from it, go watch the film and be better tomorrow.”
Eventually, there will be a third man in this race when veteran Colt McCoy recovers from a broken leg.
McCoy had a third surgery last month to clean up some issues that “popped up,” and is not expected to return until training camp. There are durability concerns with McCoy, though he knows Gruden’s system the best, given he’s been with Washington since 2014.
Gruden said he expects a lengthy competition.
“The cream always rises to the top,” Gruden said, “and we’re hoping that’s the case.”