The Washington Football Team will start second-year pro Dwayne Haskins at quarterback against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 15 after ruling Alex Smith out with a strained right calf.
Haskins last held the title of starting quarterback in Week 4. After benching Haskins head coach Ron Rivera said that the team was looking for more growth, and there were several reports that alluded to the 23-year-old’s need to do a little more homework away from the team facility.
After Haskins was benched he was replaced by another youngster, Kyle Allen, who was ineffective in three starts before suffering a season-ending ankle injury in his fourth. That’s when Smith stepped in.
“You’ve got to believe in yourself before anyone else can believe in you,” Haskins said. “So I’ve been praying. I called my pastor, called my dad. I’m playing a little bit of spiritual warfare, so I’m excited.”
Smith’s return this season has been nothing short of miraculous. Many thought the La Mesa, California native would never play NFL football again after suffering a leg injury akin to that which ended Joe Theisman’s illustrious career back in the mid 1980s. Surgical complications ended up threatening Smith’s life, resulting in an additional 17 surgeries for the veteran.
Three years to the day after his last NFL start, Smith did the unthinkable and made another one. Though he lost that first contest in his triumphant return, his calm and experienced demeanor helped steer his team to four straight victories after that—including a shocker against the previously unbeaten 11-0 Pittsburgh Steelers.
Despite that hot stretch, the Washington Football Team still owns just a measly one-game lead over the New York Football Giants in the worst division in football, also known as the NFC East.
And yes, I know that the NFC East—which Washington is favored to win with-305 odds on 888sport—has the best record in the NFL over the past four weeks, but I’m not really buying that: they’re still the worst foursome in football. In any case, with Haskins starting for the division leaders this week and possibly next, the Giants at +400 and the Eagles at +600 should be given strong consideration on NFC East-winner future bets.
While we and many others may write off Haskins, he still believes he has what it takes to be a legitimate starter in this league, and the road back to that reality starts with a strong performance on Sunday.
“I can still spin it. It’s never been a question about that. The biggest thing this week is getting back into the rhythm,” Haskins said. “I would say I’m pretty resilient. Life gets at you fast, and the biggest thing you can do is stand in the fire and walk through the flame and that’s what I did.”
Haskins will be focusing on improving his game preparation first and foremost. Washington brass has indicated that they want the Highland Park, New Jersey native to come in earlier and stay later at the facility, and a few extra throwing sessions with the receiving corps wouldn’t hurt either.
Rivera is looking for consistency from the 2019 first-round pick above else.
“Dwayne has worked hard,” Rivera said. “He’s paid attention and has watched. I believe he’s learned.”
“He had a little rhythm,” Washington’s head coach said of Haskins’ relief effort last week. “We were in good situations—first-and-10, second-and-medium, third-and-short. It’s conducive to seeing those things better with him. He has an opportunity, and I’m excited to watch him.”
According to offensive coordinator Scott Turner as well as Haskins, the young signal caller has been learning a lot from the veteran Smith. Turner pointed to the kind of questions Haskins has been asking during film sessions as an encouraging sign in the Ohio State product’s progression as an NFL quarterback.
“I learned so many things from Alex I couldn’t pinpoint one thing,” Haskins said. “Learning from him and seeing his day-to-day grind, how much work he puts in. Try to get here at the same time or earlier when he gets here or leave at the same time or later. He’s done it right, so I try to follow in his footsteps.”
But at the end of the day, it will be Haskins, not Smith, leading Washington on Sunday, and the young gun believes self-confidence and a little help from the spiritual world should help him get to where he needs to go.