Sports Columnist

Preseason finales are normally a complete waste of time, but Redskins rookie Dwayne Haskins will give fans something worth watching when Washington hosts the Ravens at 7:30 tonight on NBCSW. The first-round draft pick will play his last game for maybe a while, since Case Keenum was named the starter for next week’s regular-season opener. Look for signs of improvement in Haskins’ footwork, eyes downfield and ability to throw into passing lanes. Otherwise, it’ll be a long night for long-shot dreams. Here are five things we learned from the preseason.

Washington Redskins quarterback Dwayne Haskins (7) plays against the Cleveland Browns during the second half of an NFL preseason football game, Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019, in Cleveland. (Ron Schwane)

Offense sputters

Remember how boring quarterback Alex Smith’s offense was last year? It cranked out long drives, hogged time of possession and started 6-3 before he got injured. Fans hated that offense without appreciating its value. Well, the sequel is here with Keenum. Washington should run the ball better with two prime backs and third-down specialist Chris Thompson. It has a handful of good receivers. The passer is experienced and can handle short-range throws. But the offense has sputtered with the left side of the line uncertain and tight end Jordan Reed injured.

Haskins is close

Everyone talked about patience with Haskins, but he’s not a long-term project. Sure, he showed up with two left feet and a blindness to defenders lurking in passing lanes, but every week the first-rounder has improved. Another few weeks working as the scout team passer and observing Keenum should have the Ohio State product ready for the league. When the Redskins are likely out of playoff contention after an expected poor start, Haskins will be the reason to keep watching. He has the arm and legs to make any play. All he needs now is experience.

Special teams woes

The Redskins have rare continuity with punter Tress Way, kicker Dustin Hopkins and long snapper Nick Sundberg together for the fifth straight season. Hopkins is the first Redskins kicker to reach a half decade since Chip Lohmiller departed in 1994. The extremely consistent Way enters his sixth season with the team, and Sundberg is an ironman, starting his 10th year. They’re not the problem. The coverage units are suspect, allowing two punt returns for touchdowns in preseason play. Meanwhile, the team seems lost for a punt and kick returner.

Youth awaits

This could be a tale of two seasons, but coach Jay Gruden is relying on veterans and hoping for a successful start. If it fails badly, a youth movement should arrive around the sixth game against Miami on Oct. 13. Until then, Gruden won’t be putting his job in the hands of rookies. He recently said, “We’re never going to cut a guy that’s a better player than a young guy with potential. Potential gets you cut. It gets you beat. So we’ve got to play guys that are good now.” Thus, a handful of young players must wait their turn.

LANDOVER, MD - AUGUST 15: Minutes before kickoff and the stands are still empty before the game between the Washington Redskins and the Cincinnati Bengals at FedEx Field on Thursday, August 15, 2019. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

More small crowds

Last year was the Redskins’ worst attendance in a half century. Most times, it seemed like there were only 30,000 home fans and the rest were visitors. By season’s end, it was 60,000 Eagles fans and 10,000 Redskins backers. With maybe about 10,000 people at the preseason home opener and another lackluster season brewing, there probably won’t be much of a home crowd. The only home games where Washington supporters will likely be the majority could be versus the Lions and Jets. The Redskins badly need a series of good years to set up their next stadium in 2027.

Read more from Rick Snider:

Help’s on the way: A Redskins youth movement is looming

Gruden’s preseason apathy breeds slow starts for Redskins

Redskins’ offensive position battles could get settled against the Bengals

Case Keenum is probably the Redskins’ starting quarterback — for now

5 things to watch in the Redskins preseason opener