Dwayne Haskins sounds like a QB in control


Dwayne Haskins spoke with the confidence of someone with a year in the NFL already under his belt, a familiarity with the process and how to navigate it, as he spoke to reporters Wednesday.

While these are only words and there's no on-field proof to show it yet, the second-year quarterback sounded very much like someone in control. That command of the room is something fans hope to see translate to in-person meetings in Ashburn when training camp begins, and eventually on the field on game days.

This much is clear: Haskins has taken ownership of the Washington Redskins, where maybe there wasn't an opportunity to do so his rookie year, the youngest in a room with two veteran quarterbacks. With that natural impediment to leadership gone, Haskins has taken firm command.

As Redskins fans learned with John Beck in 2011, sounding like a leader in the offseason doesn't always translate to being one come October.

Redskins offensive coordinator Scott Turner remarked in January that Haskins needed to be the most committed guy in the building, because "that is how you develop trust and that is how you develop leadership."

Well, how exactly does one show he's committed when the building's been empty for three months? That and other unique challenges have presented themselves to Haskins as he's tried to take the next step in his career in the midst of a global pandemic.

Still, Turner said two weeks ago that, despite lacking the in-person communication for Haskins to learn his second offense in two years, he could tell Haskins had a grasp of the offense – "it's pretty easy to tell if they get it or not," Turner said, "and Dwayne's doing a great job" – and had shown he's been putting in the extra work.

Haskins is confident in his grasp of Turner's offense, despite these setbacks.

"Still learning," he said. "But I feel very comfortable just because of having learned an NFL offense last year, it's easier to translate into a new, different terminology. But the concepts are the same, the reads are the same, it's just toned differently.

"And having been in a number system and then a system where it's more concepts, it's more one-word plays or tempo and things of that nature, it's easier to regurgitate and be able to play faster, because the offense we were in last year was West Coast and was a lot of tags, longer play calls in the huddle, but this year it's a lot easier just getting used to what we're doing."

The biggest challenge of virtual meetings, Haskins says, is "you don't get to be as intimate as you would be if you were in person as far as asking questions, or pulling a coach aside to talk for an extra 15 minutes after a meeting, things like that. It's just FaceTime, it's Zoom, it's phone calls – things of that nature."

"But I definitely feel like with this offseason, it's been able to work out for me because I've been able to do my own type of routine to get ready for the season," he said. "It's not always on the time that we're doing, because we do things as a team and I need things differently for myself, so this virtually offseason has actually helped me tremendously."

Head coach Ron Rivera says, since arriving in Washington in January, Haskins has done all the things he asked of him. Asked what those things were, Haskins said, "I'll keep that conversation close to the chest, but just the whole idea of being the guy and taking this team and being a leader."

"That's something that he preached to me from day one that he got here and that's what has to happen in order to win games," he said. "I stepped up to the plate and I've done those things that he asked me to do, as far as showing leadership and getting ready for the season."

Asked what he felt he had to change about himself or develop most this offseason, Haskins said, "I don't necessarily say it's just about football. It's with everything in life. I just wanted to be a man about my business and that was on and off the field."

"Not that I wasn't prior to," he clarified. "But now I've turned 23, still being young, still growing, I just wanted to – wherever there were questions about immaturity or lack of whatever it was, I was gonna change that, whether it was true or not. But just for myself, because I needed to do that for me, so I applied pressure with everything I did this offseason, as far as my body, how I studied – all that stuff – and that's what's making a big difference."

Haskins has been spotted all over Instagram throwing to receivers from all across the league, little breadcrumbs of digital content for Redskins fans thirsty for football in an information void. Some of them are his own guys, like Terry McLaurin, Kelvin Harmon and Steven Sims. One video that got the people talking show Haskins throwing bombs to Antonio Brown. Stefon Diggs of the Bills and retired NFL receiver Chad Johnson were there that day as well.

"Not having minicamp and OTAs, it was hard to get those workouts in and the ability to connect with my teammates," Haskins said. "So I got the guys that I was really close with last year – Terry, Kelvin and Steve – and we worked out really hard. I just tried to simulate having practice or having spring training, so that we'd be able to be ready for training camp.

"And then now we're getting close to training camp, we're gonna get the rest of the receivers, the rest of the tight ends, the rest of the quarterbacks and we're gonna do that trip we were trying to do before minicamp happened with the coronavirus, so that we'll be ready to go for training camp."

"Kelvin's in great shape," Haskins went on to say. "I really don't even worry about them being in shape as much as the communication. It's the, 'On this route, I need the ball here. This coverage, I need it with this leverage.' It's just the small stuff that you don't necessarily get all the time in a Zoom meeting that you get on the field with a travel corner, or skeleton 7-on-7, or 3-on-3, and just whatever kind of different looks that you can get in a game or in training camp, because we don't have that right now because it's coronavirus. So being able to apply those situations to a workout helps tremendously."

Even in bringing in other pros, Haskins has used that as a learning tool, gleaning whatever insights he can from players who have already been successful in the NFL.

"Even with AB, Stef, Chad, a whole bunch of NFL players, DeVante Parker – I work out with a lot of receivers, they run routes with me," he said. "The biggest thing with those guys is just trying to be around the best, learning from the best, find ways to get better."

"I mean, Chad Johnson put me on game to a lot of stuff that I knew, but just to hear it from his perspective, somebody who played, played with Carson Palmer, had success in the NFL – you try to learn from those guys," he said. "So whenever I have an opportunity to be around those type of NFL players who have produced, who are great guys on and off the field, I feel like it's a great opportunity, especially as somebody who's trying to learn."

If you've perused Haskins' workout videos, you've probably noticed he's dropped a considerable amount of weight, down to 218 pounds from around 227 at the start of the offseason. Asked if he changed his diet, he said, "Yeah, I just cut out a lot of toxic stuff in my life. I feel really good right now. I lost a lot of weight.

"Before I even came to the Redskins," he added, "I was like almost 235, 237, so I've just been dropping weight."

"I want to be the best player I can be for my team and that was me working and it just fell off," he went on to say. "I wasn't intending to lose that much weight, I guess, but it just happens and I think I'll be more of a dynamic football player this year and I'm looking forward to making some plays."

Haskins is unfazed by those who characterize this as a make-or-break season for him in his career.

"I'm gonna deliver. It's never a question about that," he said. "I don't even care about that stuff, honestly. But the biggest thing for me is to be prepared – mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually – and that's what I've been doing and I'm looking forward to being a great leader for this football team this year."