Shortly after being hired in January, head coach Ron Rivera sat down with Dwayne Haskins Jr. and challenged the young signal caller: step up, be a leader and prove he deserved the right to be the starting quarterback.
Haskins lived up to his part of that conversation by transforming himself, both physically and mentally, this offseason. Because of that, Rivera is doing the same.
Rivera began his press conference Wednesday by announcing that Haskins will be the Washington Football Team's starting quarterback for Week 1 against Philadelphia on Sept. 13. Rivera has felt that way for about three weeks, he said, and now the decision is official.
"You know exactly who our starter is, but more importantly, our players know who our starter is," Rivera told reporters. "I've been very pleased with his efforts, his attitude and the way he approached everything."
Rivera said in February he wanted to see "competitive competition" at the quarterback position, and ideally, that competition would have meant Haskins and Kyle Allen splitting time during preseason games.
But the novel coronavirus altered those plans after the NFL cancelled all preseason games. As a result, Rivera made the decision to give Haskins as many reps with the starting offense as possible.
Following the unofficial conclusion of training camp at FedExField on Monday, Rivera said he has seen Haskins grow and develop over the past month. He's also witnessed a change in the way Haskins has approached the game, which he said comes with being a franchise quarterback.
"There's a certain aspect of being the face of the franchise in terms of being the starting quarterback that you have to deal with," Rivera said. "There's a certain way he has to carry himself, a certain way he has to deal with issues on the field, a certain way he has to deal with off-the-field issues. And I thought he's done a great job."
Haskins transformed his body over the course of the offseason. In May, he revealed he had lost 11 pounds and dropped 7% body fat. He looked slimmer in numerous photos on his social media pages, and appeared quicker in workout videos.
Haskins also spent time with receivers Terry McLaurin, Steven Sims Jr. and Kelvin Harmon to improve their chemistry and become familiar with new offensive coordinator Scott Turner's system. Based on their time together, McLaurin could tell that Haskins was ready to "be the leader and the quarterback that this franchise needs and deserves."
Haskins' hard work paid off during training camp. He improved each day of practice while spending all of his time with the starting offense.
"Dwayne's been great," Turner said. "From the second that we were able to start working with the players, he's attacked this whole thing full steam ahead. Even before that, he was in here rehabbing and...we told him to focus on himself physically because we couldn't be around him with the quarantine, and he did that. You look at his body, he looks totally different than what I remember seeing of him last year.
"And then as far as our playbook, the way we approach the quarterback position, the way we go about our decision-making, he's bought in 100%. The guy's made a lot of good plays."
Rivera said he wants to see his quarterbacks make the right decisions while directing the offense, and Haskins has accomplished that by putting himself in prime positions to deliver accurate throws. Rivera said he began to "speed up" how he operated in the offense.
"You've started to see him early on catch onto things. While things were happening fast, he was just a tick behind, and all of a sudden he was even with everything. Now, all of a sudden he's ahead of everything. Those are the things that you're looking for when you're watching guys."
Rivera was in a similar situation in 2011 when the Carolina Panthers drafted Cam Newton with the No. 1 overall pick. He sees similarities in Haskins and Newton's work ethic and their ability to throw the football.
Rivera said in January that Haskins has the chance to be a "franchise-style quarterback." Now, Haskins has the chance to prove that with Rivera's blessing.
"He deserves the opportunity," Rivera said. "He's going to get my support. Hopefully we can ride it as long as I rode it with Cam."