- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 3, 2020

When Ron Rivera interviewed candidates for his coaching staff, he wanted his quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator to present him with a plan on how to develop Dwayne Haskins. It was a tactic he used in Carolina for Cam Newton, who blossomed into an MVP by his fifth season. And the Redskins have spent the last few months enacting those ideas.

But to those outside the Redskins, there’s skepticism whether the Redskins are doing enough to support their second-year quarterback in the long term.

The NFL Network’s Gregg Rosenthal said on “Around the NFL” podcast that Haskins is being “set up to fail,” saying the 23-year-old’s supporting cast is among the worst in the league. Rosenthal’s comments echo a similar line of thinking from ESPN’s Bill Barnwell, who labeled Haskins a loser of the offseason after the Redskins failed to land a marquee wide receiver in free agency or the draft.

The line of thinking goes like this: How is Haskins supposed to improve if he doesn’t have the playmakers needed to, well, make plays?

“If you look at whole situation — offensive line, coach, receivers, everything — I don’t know if anyone has a worse situation than Dwayne Haskins,” Rosenthal said.

The Redskins are looking to improve an offense that ranked last in points (16.6) and 31st in total yards (274.7) per game. But Washington’s offseason lacked the splash that suggests a massive turnaround is coming. Rivera and the front office mostly added depth in free agency and the draft on offense. It also traded left tackle Trent Williams and cut Jordan Reed — two longtime, albeit unreliable given they didn’t play last year, fixtures for Washington.

On paper, the Redskins didn’t make the type of roster moves that other teams have used to try and get their young signal-callers to take the next step. The Arizona Cardinals and Denver Broncos, for instance, took rookie quarterbacks in 2019 and spent the spring finding weapons for them (Arizona traded for DeAndre Hopkins, while Denver drafted first-rounder Jerry Jeudy). Last year, the Cleveland Browns acquired All-Pro receiver Odell Beckham and signed running back Kareem Hunt following a promising debut from Baker Mayfield.

Rookie quarterbacks come cheap — which means it makes sense to stockpile talent while teams can afford to do so. The Redskins, too, have $35 million in cap space, according to Over The Cap.

To Washington’s credit, the Redskins did swing big when they pursued Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper and offered him north of $100 million, only for him to re-sign with Dallas.

But after Washington struck out, it remained patient. Instead, the Redskins are banking on the growth of young receivers like Terry McLaurin, who almost reached 1,000 yards as a rookie. Steven Sims and Kelvin Harmon flashed as rookies as well, and Washington drafted Antonio Gandy-Golden and Antonio Gibson to bolster their receiving corps.

“Looking at some of the additions that we made, yeah, they might not be flashy names, but that’s not necessarily always the best route to go either,” offensive coordinator Scott Turner said.

Not every move pans out. Beckham’s addition didn’t stop Baker from regressing in his second year as Cleveland finished a disappointing 6-10.

Nationally, Haskins has become a polarizing figure. In February, ESPN’s Mike Greenberg argued the team’s handling of Haskins was “the definition of how to ruin a young player.” Fellow ESPN analyst Louis Riddick had also been critical of Washington’s former coaching staff’s approach to Haskins last fall.

Others seem to doubt Haskins’ skill set. Of a list of the league’s top 40 quarterbacks, NBC’s Chris Simms ranked Haskins at 39. Likewise, the Boston Globe ranked the Redskins’ quarterback depth chart second-to-last, writing “Haskins showed very little in an abbreviated rookie year.”

For the Redskins, though, the plan involves building Haskins’ confidence. Haskins had a strong stretch over his final four games, throwing five touchdowns to one interception with a 99.1 passer rating.

“It takes a while for guys to truly believe that they can do this and that they can play in this league,” Turner said. “It is highly competitive, and it humbles everyone. … What he did the last month of the season, he truly believed that he could go out and do that.

“Watching him and spending the time with him, getting to know him as I have over these past few months, you want to build on those things.”

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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