- - Sunday, November 24, 2019

LANDOVER — We are long past the stage where wins and losses are overriding concerns for the Washington Redskins this season. Wins and losses on given plays and key drives, in specific situations and certain conditions, are far more important considerations than the final score during these last few games.

However, week after week and month after month of chewing on defeats is a depressing way to spend Sunday afternoons. While there’s no guarantee the taste will linger for the young players expected to lead a turnaround, you don’t want them growing accustomed to it, either.

By beating the Detroit Lions on Sunday, 19-16, and snapping a nine-game streak at home, Washington checked off a few boxes that are small in the grand scheme, but possibly building blocks for the big picture.

Quarterback Dwayne Haskins won his first game as a starter in three tries. Rookie defensive end Montez Sweat notched his first strip-sack, which helped set up the game-winning drive. Cornerback Fabian Moreau finally broke into the interception column this season, recording the first two-pick game of his career.

Rookie Steven Sims scored on a kickoff return for the first time, Washington’s only touchdown against Detroit. Halfback Derrius Guice recorded his initial game as the team’s leading rushing, albeit a measly 32 yards on 10 carries. Rookie linebacker Cole Holcomb got home for his first career sack and made a career-high 13 tackles.

“To me, it’s scary to see all the young guys,” Sims said. “It’s a lot (for opponents) to prepare for.”

Those results — the growth and development of prospects — really matter, especially compared to the 2019 final record. The referendum on this season was decided a long time ago, back when Jay Gruden was still a team employee.

With interim coach Bill Callahan now in charge, each week brings a series of referendums on individuals who might or might not be part of the solution moving forward.

Haskins is the most glaring example, given the final eight weeks to exhibit signs he can become a franchise quarterback. Presented with a shot at leading Washington to a rare home win, he did just that. He completed 4-of-6 passes for 46 yards — just missing Terry McLaurin in the end zone — before Dustin Hopkins hit a game-tying field goal with 3:42 left.

Then, with 26 seconds left and Washington barely in field goal range, Hopkins connected with McLaurin for a 17-yard completion, his former Ohio State teammate extending for a nice running grab. Hopkins then nailed his fourth field goal, a 39-yarder, for the win.

“It’s nice that we stuck together and had a chance to win,” Hopkins said. “It says a lot about the character of the team because it’d be easy to fold after all we’ve been through.”

But even wins can bring an element of drama. Haskins, busy celebrating after Moreau’s interception with two seconds left, didn’t realize a snap in victory formation was required. Backup QB Case Keenum was forced to come in for the kneel down.

Callahan improved to 2-4 in his current role, having beaten the 2-win Miami Dolphins in addition to the 3-win Lions. The remaining games shouldn’t be a referendum on him (please move on with a 21st century coach), but he does deserve credit for the team’s refusal to quit.

“In a team meeting yesterday, he ripped us apart,” cornerback Quinton Dunbar said. “Guys didn’t take that too fairly and wanted to come out here and prove that they were something he said they weren’t.”

Among veterans like cornerback Josh Norman, linebacker Ryan Kerrigan and halfback Adrian Peterson, we’re not sure who’s what. Banged-up Norman didn’t play. Kerrigan left with a concussion. Peterson had the same number of carries as Guice (10).

At 2-9, the future started weeks ago. Now isn’t the time to get stuck in a time warp with oldheads who will be elsewhere next season. They have accumulated plenty of tape and statistics, and judgments about them are firmly established. That’s not the case with Haskins, Sweat and the other young guns. They came through Sunday and delivered a long-awaited victory to the remaining Washington fans, who have suffered mightily.

But when looking for bright spots, another victory or two in a lost season won’t suffice. The jury is still out on would-be key components in 2020 and beyond. They present new evidence each week, fueling another round of deliberations.

Win or lose, the campaign will end Dec. 29 at Dallas. But voting will continue.

⦁ Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

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