As Dwayne Haskins Jr. scanned the field midway through the first quarter in Arizona, he felt pressure and started scrambling. But there was no need to abandon the pocket; the left side of the offensive line picked up the Cardinals' stunt, and Terry McLaurin was running wide open on a corner route. If Haskins stayed put, he might have connected with McLaurin for a big gain.
Instead, Haskins ran right into a sack for a nine-yard loss. The Washington Football Team punted a few plays later.
In each of his first two games, Haskins struggled early on before finding his rhythm as the game progressed. The biggest difference, he said, revolved around one word: trust.
"I'd probably say the biggest thing would just be trusting the play, not coming off of something just because of trying to make something bigger happen on the next read or moving through the pocket worried about pressure," Haskins said Wednesday. "The biggest thing is just trusting the play, playing the play out and not letting the last play affect the new play and just focusing on what my reads are and not trying to bypass a one- or two-yard completion that could be a first down and try to throw a 15, 14-yard curl route. Just trying to make sure the play and completion game moves us down the field."
In addition to trusting himself, Haskins is continuing to build trust with his teammates and coaches. He's in his third offense in as many years, dating back to his time at Ohio State, and since there was no preseason, he has only played in two games with Scott Turner as the team's offensive coordinator. Washington also brought in a bevy of new skill players, such as Logan Thomas, Dontrelle Inman and almost all of the running backs. The left side of the offensive line is new as well.
All of these factors resulted in a sluggish start in Week 1, but then the offense strung together some solid drives. By taking advantage of turnovers, the unit put up 27 unanswered points in a historic comeback.
"It's 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 after the 27-17 win over the Eagles. "As we got rolling, that's what we tried to do each play."
Turner said he and the rest of the coaching staff has worked to strike a balance with such a young offense. They want to put pressure on defenses with unique formations and complex play calls, but not at the expense of possibly confusing their own players. To rectify this, Turner said there has been an open communication between him and Haskins. If Haskins feels the offense does not have a complete grasp of a certain concept, they do not not expect the unit to execute it on game day.
The coaching staff trusts Haskins -- that's why they named him the team's starting quarterback -- and when his body is aligned correctly and his feet are set, Turner knows he "can make any throw that there is." But sometimes, Turner notices Haskins' mind working faster than his body. He then feels rushed and relies on his arm strength when in reality, he has enough time to be technically sound and deliver on-target passes.
Other times, Haskins needs to trust his pass-catchers. On a 3rd-and-2 against the Cardinals, Washington ran a rub play with Inman coming down to shield the defender and Thomas looping around him. Haskins did not see Thomas open initially, so he turned his head and fired a low pass to Inman that was incomplete. He realized later that if he waited a split second longer, allowing Thomas to separate from his defender, he could have made a high and outside throw to Thomas, who had room to run down the left sideline.
"It's just knowing that when you get man coverage that sometimes a route will take a little bit longer than usual and to hold onto it a little bit longer so you let the guy work and win to get open," Haskins said. "Understanding that in zone coverage, we have to be precise and be on time and accurate."
Haskins said he will have to be decisive going against a Cleveland Browns defense that rarely blitzes but still pressures the quarterback. The biggest threat will be Pro Bowler Myles Garrett -- one of the best pass-rushers in the NFL and someone Haskins said influences the game on every play. He's a part of what Haskins called a "very active" defensive line, which recorded three sacks against another young quarterback, Cincinnati Bengals rookie Joe Burrow, in Week 2.
Still, Burrow threw for 316 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions in a 35-30 defeat. If there were a game for Washington to put together a complete offensive performance, it would be Sunday in Cleveland.
"The biggest thing is going in there, trusting what Coach Turner calls, trusting in the guys up front to protect and trusting in the receivers to get open," Haskins said. "And then trusting in myself that I'm going to make the play happen and find the first down and find the checkdown and not necessarily push or try to make something happen out of nothing."