The two players — taken with premium picks in back-to-back drafts — are considered potential future centerpieces of the offense, and Sunday will mark the first time the duo has played together.
Callahan offered praise for the way Haskins played during his first start, a 24-9 loss at the Buffalo Bills on Nov. 3, while also acknowledging that the team’s 1-8 record makes the timing right for the first-year passer to get valuable game experience.
“We’ve got a lot of confidence in Dwayne,” Callahan said. “He’s worked hard. He’s smart. He studies, prepares. So this will be a great opportunity for him going forward.”
Case Keenum, who has started seven games this season, will be the second-string quarterback. Colt McCoy will remain the third-stringer. Callahan said the decision to start Haskins, the 15th selection in April’s draft, was made last week, but he didn’t want to announce it before speaking to the veteran quarterbacks.
Callahan was hesitant to name a starter before the team took its bye this past week, and he insisted there was a need to evaluate the quarterbacks during the break. Haskins produced an average performance in his start against Buffalo, throwing for 144 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions as the team employed a conservative game plan. He was sacked four times during the loss.
The coaches are looking for consistent progress from Haskins, Callahan said, adding that they would expand the playbook for him in his second start. He praised Haskins’s decisiveness and ability to go through his progressions against the Bills, and he added that his arm strength is more valuable this time of year, when weather becomes a larger factor.
“Also, he needs experience,” Callahan said. “Let’s face it. Let’s give Dwayne an opportunity. We’re at a juncture where we don’t want to be record-wise, so this is a good opportunity for him to take advantage of every rep practice-wise and game-wise so we can see growth in his play.”
Callahan had previously been adamant that his focus was on winning games and not the future, which is why he kept starting Keenum. Now, with Haskins installed as the starter, the Redskins will get a chance to see what they have in the rookie.
Wide receiver Trey Quinn said he has seen consistent progress from Haskins,
“Sky’s the limit right now for him; it’s just up to him to take the extra time and learn on his own,” Quinn said. “It helps to have a full week of preparation where you’re the starter. I know you’re supposed to be ready for whatever situation, but it does something mentally, especially when you have somebody telling you’re the guy, and you can see that in him.
“He’s always had an arm,” Quinn continued. “Always stands tall in the pocket and is confident in himself. Other than that, it’s getting in the pro system and feeling comfortable calling the plays, going through the progressions, making the check at the line and just studying a little extra. Week by week, he’s done that.”
This will be the second much-anticipated return for Guice this season. The 2018 second-round pick out of LSU missed his rookie season after tearing his ACL in the first preseason game, and the excitement built again for his 2019 debut. Guice then tore his meniscus in the season-opening loss at the Philadelphia Eagles, had surgery and has been on injured reserve since. The team activated him last week.
The next question centers on how Guice and Adrian Peterson will be paired. Former coach Jay Gruden said before the season that Washington’s offense would run through Guice, and he backed up that assertion by making Peterson inactive for the season opener. Peterson took over the starting job after Guice’s injury.
Callahan said Peterson will be active this week but did not offer any details on how the two would share the ball.
“We haven’t exactly sat down and divided the reps up,” Callahan said. “[Running backs coach Randy Jordan] does a good job managing the backs and rolling the backs by series or by plays or by featured concepts, for that matter. So there are a lot of dynamics involved here. . . . It could be protection-oriented, run-oriented, inside, outside. There’s a lot of factors.”
With little else to be optimistic about, Redskins fans will at least get to see the team’s young skill-position players getting major playing time together, with Haskins and Guice joining rookie wide receiver Terry McLaurin on the field against the Jets.
“The consistency factor is huge when you’re a young player,” Callahan said. “It’s just the growth development, the experiences that they’re learning from, the ability to take it from the classroom to the grass more effectively and efficiently, without repetitive errors.”