“It was cool,” Haskins said. “Being in Ohio, a lot of Ohio State fans in the stadium. A lot of love from Browns fans and stuff like that. It was pretty dope to be back.”
The unfamiliar was the fact that Haskins was making his NFL debut against a Cleveland Browns team that could be a Super Bowl contender, and experiencing his first taste of NFL players going full speed and tackling on every play. His performance was far from a highlight-filled affair. He struggled at various points during the Browns’ 30-10 preseason win, but he still managed to flash the promise that made him a college star.
Haskins finished 8 for 14 with 117 passing yards, two sacks and two interceptions after entering the game in the second quarter. The performance actually mimicked much of what has been going on in training camp, using his strong arm to make throws others on the roster simply can’t make. His first two completions went for 27 and 32 yards with confident throws. But his two interceptions came on passes that he should not have attempted.
“There were moments that he looked very good,” Coach Jay Gruden said. “Honestly there were a couple throws there that he wishes he had back. A couple things with protections we’ve got to get cleaned up. But first [time] in the NFL, first opportunity to play, it’s not going to go perfectly.”
Haskins’s potential was obvious on a handful of plays, including his first pass attempt — a completion to Darvin Kidsy on a play-action rollout that Haskins has thrown successfully during camp. There also was the play in the second half during which he spun out of a would-be sack, stayed on his feet, kept his eyes downfield and threw a strike to Cam Sims on the side of the end zone that the wide receiver couldn’t hold on to. It showcased more mobility than some give Haskins credit for, along with his impressive arm strength. He was frustrated that they couldn’t complete the play.
But the worst parts of his night were the interceptions, the first of which was a pick-six to Browns rookie linebacker Mack Wilson on Haskins’s second drive. Byron Marshall ran a wheel-route out of the backfield, and Haskins threw in his direction to the right sideline. Wilson, however, was right there in coverage and made the easy interception before taking it back 40 yards. The second interception was an overthrown ball and an easy catch for rookie cornerback Greedy Williams.
“He sees what he’s doing,” Gruden said. “Just got to make sure the receivers are on the same page.”
“You’ve got to get over it," Haskins said. "It happened. … On to the next play.”
There were some other, smaller issues on display as well, including some pre-snap problems that have been present during training camp. Haskins can be slow getting the team out of the huddle, which leads to issues at the line of scrimmage. On his second snap, a quickened cadence seem to make offensive lineman Timon Parris jump offsides. He has also struggled in practice at adjusting calls at the line of scrimmage and getting the team set up with the right pass protection.
Those protection issues, however, aren’t always on him. Thursday served as a reminder that Washington’s offensive line is a work in progress without star left tackle Trent Williams, who has not yet reported to training camp. One sack came right up the middle Thursday night, when right guard Zac Kerin slid left and Parris, at right tackle, slid right — both ignoring Cleveland’s Devaroe Lawrence.
“We’ve just got to communicate better,” Gruden said. “That’s all it is. You try to make sure you’re schematically sound, make sure your quarterback is protected. That didn’t take place a couple times today.”