The moment, however, was bittersweet. The Redskins were in the midst of a 34-17 loss to the lowly New York Jets, and a touchdown wasn’t going to change that.
“There were a lot of emotions going through my head at the time, but I knew I had to put it all aside because we were losing,” Guice said. “ … That kind of took the excitement out of it.”
The play did, however, provide a glimpse into the team’s potential future. Haskins, the 15th overall pick in April’s draft, made his first home start after being named the team’s first-string quarterback for the rest of the season. He had an up-and-down day, throwing for 214 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, while being sacked six times. Guice showed no ill effects in his return from a torn meniscus in his knee, posting 24 rushing yards on seven carries to go along with the 45-yard touchdown reception. Rookie wide receiver Terry McLaurin caught three balls for 69 yards and had a 67-yarder called back because of a holding penalty.
Those three make up the Redskins’ version of offensive triplets — a trio the team hopes will have a long, successful run in the future. For as disappointing as the loss was, they produced enough big plays in their first game on the field together to offer fans a small glimmer of hope.
“That’s just him making plays and being the beast that he is,” Haskins said of McLaurin, his college teammate at Ohio State. “I’m glad he is on my team.”
Washington’s offense was a mess for most of the game, but did break its 16-quarter streak without a touchdown with Guice’s score, then added another touchdown late with a 12-yard pass from Haskins to fellow rookie Kelvin Harmon — another of the Redskins’ young offensive skill-position players to see major playing time Sunday. He had a career-high five catches for 53 yards.
“We’ve made some subtle changes along the way,” interim coach Bill Callahan said, “and we have pieces a little bit different this game than we have in the past.”
The Redskins are in the midst of an awful season, but Sunday did give a peek at the building blocks for 2020 and beyond.
Defense again looks lost
If there were silver linings to be found in the play of some of Washington’s younger players, the opposite was true on defense. The Redskins’ defense made several inexcusable mistakes in Sunday’s loss, including blown coverages for touchdowns and allowing the Jets to convert on half of their third-down attempts, both contributing to an insurmountable lead late. For a stretch, it seemed as if the unit had decided to completely ignore tight end Ryan Griffin, who posted a career-high 109 yards and a touchdown on five catches.
The Jets jumped out to a 34-3 lead despite entering the game ranked 30th in the league in points and 32nd in total yards.
“We’re missing tackles, we’re leaving guys open,” veteran outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said. “Defensively, those are mistakes you can’t overcome. It’s hard enough to win in this league when you’re playing well and doing things the right way. When you’re making mistakes and beating yourself, you have no chance.”
Jets quarterback Sam Darnold threw for a career-high four touchdowns. The lone bright spots for Washington were an interception by linebacker Jon Bostic and a fumble recovery by the special teams unit, but the offense managed just three points from the two extra possessions.
The Redskins were built to win with a defense that leads the way, and when it doesn’t, the team looks completely lost. They’ll have to get more out of their defense if they are to be competitive in any of their remaining six games.
Moving up in the draft order
The most positive thing about the Redskins’ loss might have been that it took another step toward securing a top selection in the 2020 NFL draft. They are the lone one-win team in the league, with a better record than only the winless Cincinnati Bengals, and their remaining schedule features just two teams with losing records: the 3-6-1 Detroit Lions and the 2-8 New York Giants.
A lot can change in six games, but it’s becoming increasingly likely that Washington will have a very valuable selection in next year’s draft, possibly within the top three picks.