Redskins Coach Jay Gruden hasn’t said how he plans to rotate his quarterbacks in Thursday’s preseason opener at Cleveland, but veteran Colt McCoy, still working his way back to full strength from the broken leg he suffered last season, will be held out for precautionary reasons. That decision means more reps for fellow veteran Case Keenum and rookie Dwayne Haskins, McCoy’s competition for the starting job, and if it were up to Chris Cooley, Haskins would make his debut against the Browns with Washington’s first-team unit.

“You gotta know what Dwayne is,” Cooley, the former Redskins tight end, said Wednesday on Kevin Sheehan’s podcast. “You gotta know what Dwayne is this season, you gotta know what Dwayne is as soon as you possibly can. You can play Case a little bit with the starters, but I think you play Dwayne with the starters. If I’m Jay, I’m making a decision whether it’s Colt or Case right now as your starter [for Week 1] if Dwayne’s not ready, and if it’s not Case, Case isn’t going to take the reps with the ones. Dwayne would start for me in this preseason game. I want to know what he is. You took him [with the 15th pick in this year’s NFL draft]. If quarterbacks are going to be good quarterbacks, they’re ready to play, soon.”

Given the Redskins’ brutal early-season schedule — which includes a trip to Philadelphia, a Monday night meeting with the Bears and a game against the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots — and the fact that Haskins started for only one season at Ohio State, many pundits have suggested it makes sense for Washington to take a patient approach with its rookie quarterback. In June, Redskins legend Joe Theismann said throwing Haskins into the fire in Week 1 was “a formula for disaster” and that the “best scenario” for the former Bullis star would be to sit on the bench for the entire year while learning the offense.

Sheehan, who has continued to produce his podcast since returning to the radio airwaves with a morning show on The Team 980 earlier this month, disagrees. Barring a strong start to the season by McCoy or Keenum, he argued, Haskins should play in at least eight games, or it would be an indication that the Redskins drafting him where they did was a mistake.

“No question,” Cooley said. “Unless Colt McCoy is Steve Young, I want to see Dwayne Haskins. [Unless] Colt McCoy is playing in the top 10 in the league in terms of quarterbacks, and your offense is top 10, 15 — which is tough, because I don’t know if you have the weapons at this point to be that — it’s time for Dwayne to play. You just gotta know. It’s too hard now in the league to wait for a long time with these guys. The other thing is, you gotta know in this year with Jay if it’s a mesh with Jay, and if it’s a mesh with [offensive coordinator Kevin] O’Connell. He’s your future. You win with quarterbacks in this league. Let’s figure out what this relationship is and what we can do with it as soon as we can.”

Last year, the four quarterbacks selected in the first half of the first round of the draft — Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen — combined to start 50 of a possible 64 regular season games. Their teams went 18-32 in those starts. Mayfield, whom the Redskins will see up close and personal on Thursday, was the best of the bunch. The No. 1 overall pick after three years as the starter at Oklahoma started the Browns’ final 13 games and finished with 27 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

Cooley said he expects McCoy to be the Redskins’ Week 1 starter and it makes sense for Gruden to play him sparingly in the preseason, as he’s “leaps and bounds ahead” of Keenum and Haskins in terms of understanding the offense. It helps that McCoy has played in Gruden’s system for the past four years. Sheehan said he wouldn’t be surprised if the Redskins look to trade Keenum, whom they acquired in March, if McCoy emerges as the clear-cut Week 1 starter and Haskins has a strong preseason.

“I wouldn’t be shocked at all,” Cooley agreed. “The other thing you have to consider when you’re looking at all of this is there’s still a chance Alex Smith is ready to play 10 games into this season."

Sheehan stopped his former radio co-host there, pointing out that all indications are that Smith, who suffered a gruesome leg injury last November, won’t play this year, and possibly will never play again. Cooley clarified that his speculation about Smith’s recovery from his broken tibia and fibula was “just a hunch,” and not based on conversations with Smith or anyone at Redskins Park.

“The Redskins have not once thrown out there’s no chance he plays this season,” Cooley said. “Not one time.”

Cooley also shared his thoughts on Redskins left tackle Trent Williams, his teammate for three seasons. Williams, who continues to hold out, is frustrated with the Redskins for several reasons, including their decision to draft tackle Geron Christian in the third round of last year’s draft and the way the team’s medical staff handled a growth on his head that turned into a health scare. Williams has expressed a desire for the Redskins to either trade him or pay him more.

“You gotta trade him,” Cooley said. “I love Trent. I do. He’s been a friend of mine for a long time. I respect if he truly feels the way he feels about the medical staff, that that’s a problem for him. I respect that all players want new money if that’s a problem for him. … Good organizations move on. The Steelers, the Patriots, they move on from those guys.”

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