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After Finishing Strong Against The Eagles, Dwayne Haskins Looks To Take Another Step Forward In Arizona

Washington Football Team quarterback Dwayne Haskins (7) during an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Sep. 13, 2020 in Landover, Md. (Alika Jenner/NFL)
Washington Football Team quarterback Dwayne Haskins (7) during an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Sep. 13, 2020 in Landover, Md. (Alika Jenner/NFL)

Following an interception by Fabian Moreau late in the first half against the Eagles, Dwayne Haskins Jr. recognized the opportunity for a big gain. He just needed to make a few pre-snap adjustments.

First, he alerted center Chase Roullier of an outside linebacker was blitzing off the right edge. Roullier alerted the rest of the offensive line, which adjusted accordingly to give Haskins enough time to throw. Haskins then moved running back J.D. McKissic to his left and had him run a swing route.

With the middle linebacker now occupied, Terry McLaurin had a 1-on-1 matchup to the right with a cornerback who was 10 yards off the line of scrimmage. Haskins delivered a quick throw and McLaurin did the rest, resulting in a 21-yard pickup.

That completion marked the beginning of Haskins' turnaround in the Washington Football Team's season-opener. After missing nine of his first 12 throws, Haskins went 14-for-19 passing for 146 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. More importantly, the offense scored 27 unanswered points in a historic come-from-behind win.

Haskins will look to carry this momentum into Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals, who ranked last in total defense and second-to-last in passing defense a year ago.

"This is a second-year quarterback who's done a great job, who's learning, who's made good decisions [against the Eagles], he really did," head coach Ron Rivera said of Haskins. "That was one of the things that was really pleasing. Even though he may have missed a couple throws, those throws were headed where they were supposed to, to the right receivers."

Before Haskins found his rhythm, a variety of factors contributed to his slow start against the Eagles. Rivera saw a young quarterback who was "a little bit anxious," which led to inaccurate throws. Offensive coordinator Scott Turner saw a unit playing in its first game together against a quality opponent. Haskins echoed Turner's sentiment, noting that with so many young players, it took time for everyone to mesh.

Haskins' mechanics were also partly to blame. As The Athletic's Mark Bullock mentioned in his film breakdown, Haskins was not stepping into his throws, which prevented him from squaring his hips and driving the ball to his intended targets. Of his first six passes, Haskins completed just one.

But once Haskins settled in, Rivera saw him take command of the offense. It started with the throw to McLaurin, which led to his first touchdown pass a few plays later to Logan Thomas.

Rivera noticed even more confidence from his second-year signal-caller on the second drive of the third quarter. Shortly after a bullet to Steven Sims Jr. resulted in a 17-yard game, Peyton Barber trimmed the deficit to 17-14.

"The biggest thing as far as turning it around going into the second quarter and halftime of that game was just trusting in what we were doing and just understanding that Turner is going to put us into the best position to make plays and we've got to trust the plays and try to execute each one as best as we can," Haskins said. "As we got rolling, that's what we tried to do each play."

As Haskins helped lead Washington's comeback, Turner said he rarely put the ball in "harm's way." He did not turn the ball over and only took three sacks, one of which did not result in a loss of yardage after Haskins scrambled back to the line of scrimmage.

Haskins also excelled in specific situations, such as the four-minute offense, two-minute drill, on third down and in the red zone. Of four red zone trips in the second half, Washington scored two touchdowns and a field goal. The only instance it did not come away with points was when it ran out the clock at the end of the game.

Haskins' most impressive drive came when the offense needed it most. With the game tied early in the fourth quarter, he spearheaded a 13-play, 48-yard drive that included two third-and-long conversions. Had he missed on either of these throws, Washington would have been forced to try a field goal to tie the game. Instead, Barber gave the team a lead it would not relinquish.

"I think there are probably some decisions he'd like to have back," Turner said of Haskins' performance, "but you're never going to be perfect in that regard. Stuff happens really fast out there. He's got to see it out of his eyes. The more he plays, the more he sees it, I think the better he's going to be at those types of things."

With the way Haskins finished against the Eagles, he should have plenty of confidence going against an Arizona defense that allowed 281.9 passing yards per game last season. The unit performed slightly better in a Week 1 win over San Francisco -- quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo amassed 259 yards and two touchdowns -- but the 49ers were without their top two wide receivers.

Even if Haskins does not thrive against the Cardinals, both Rivera and Turner have admitted that it will take time for this offense to develop. After all, it's a new system with inexperienced players who would have benefitted from preseason games.

But starting with the touchdown drive right before halftime against Philadelphia, Washington's attack showed it can score more than enough points to pull out victories this season. Establishing consistency, Turner said, will be the key for this unit moving forward.

"We've got a good group of young guys that work, that are going to continue to get better and grind and work," Turner said. "The best thing that our guys did is they stuck together. Nobody panicked and we stayed with the plan and everybody trusted what we were doing. Again, we got put in some good situations, but we finished drives in the end zone. If we can continue to do that and do the stuff we did in the second half, I think we'll get better and better every week and every game."

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