The Washington Football Team is in first place in the NFC East, and quarterback Alex Smith is continuing to defy the odds amid a Comeback Player of the Year storybook season, beating out 2019 first-round pick Dwayne Haskins on the depth chart.
Even though Smith suffered a calf injury in Week 14’s victory over San Francisco to the same right leg he required many surgeries on, he still appears on track to face the Seattle Seahawks in Week 15. What does this mean for Haskins? Well, nothing good.
Washington Football Team rumors: Alex Smith on track to play vs. Seahawks
Given that NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero is already reporting on Smith’s encouraging injury outlook leading into Week 15 despite the clear red flags the latest injury raises, it seems Washington will only turn to Haskins in absolutely dire straits.
Although Smith’s return to the gridiron in 2020 has been nothing short of miraculous due to the life-threatening nature of his injury situation, the reality is, the Football Team would be better off with a more dynamic player under center. The supporting cast outside of wide receiver Terry McLaurin is pretty weak, so it’s not all on the quarterback, yet Smith was just 8-of-19 passing for 57 yards and an interception before exiting the field Sunday versus the 49ers.
For his part, Haskins has a 77.5 passer rating in 14 career games, and didn’t do much to earn a closer look for extended playing time or starting opportunities, putting up a Week 14 line of seven completions on 12 passes for 51 yards. It was the other side of the ball that keyed a 23-15 victory, punctuated by Washington’s two defensive touchdowns.
Herein lies the problem: Who gives this team the best chance to win? While today the answer is probably Smith, Haskins has the type of tantalizing potential that could really spark the passing attack. He just needs live reps in the hopes that the so-called light will turn on. As the standings line up right now, the coaching staff is hinting that the circumstances scarcely allow for that, even if Smith’s injury status is up in the air.
Washington Football Team rumors: What’s the plan at QB in 2021?
The Football Team’s defense is among the NFL’s best, and legitimate aspirations of a deep postseason run would be well-founded if not for the subpar play of the offense. It’s difficult to solve that, though, because breakout star running back Antonio Gibson is dealing with turf toe, and there just aren’t many other dynamic skill players on the roster.
Or is there better talent in the nation’s capital, and Washington just doesn’t have the signal-caller to capitalize on it? If that’s the case, there must be a priority in place to either grow the quarterback position rapidly in-house, or seek an upgrade from outside the organization for 2021 and thereafter.
Let’s judge this whole situation for what it is: Smith’s in action for the first time since 2018. Rust is obviously a factor, as is limited throwing velocity and athleticism. That latter attribute was a particularly underrated part of Smith’s game, and is all but absent nowadays. Smith has a 79.0 passer rating this season and is averaging only 6.5 yards per attempt. How much overall strength can the 36-year-old gain back at this late stage of his career?
Haskins is quite the opposite from Smith: A massive, cannon-armed passer with scattershot accuracy whose football acumen and experience pales in comparison to the veteran playing ahead of him. Almost any evaluator knew Haskins was a year or two away from being truly pro-ready when he came out of Ohio State, and as evidence that a big leap can happen in Year 3, look no further than Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills.
Allen is a far superior athlete to Haskins, though, and has perhaps the strongest arm in the NFL. Those are skills Haskins doesn’t have, and while he could eventually reach a high ceiling as a starter, he won’t be moving along much with how Washington is currently using him. Haskins isn’t getting first-team practice reps to gain experience, nor is he learning on Sundays through game action. Those tactics are only going to stunt his development.
If the Football Team wins the NFC East, it’ll be less feasible to draft another high-end quarterback, much less move so far up for one through a trade. But with the fifth-most cap space in the NFL entering 2021, per OverTheCap.com, look for Washington to be aggressive in trading for someone like Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions, or even poaching Dak Prescott from the NFC East rival Dallas Cowboys.
Hard to imagine head coach Ron Rivera runs it back with his former Carolina quarterback Kyle Allen with options like the above potentially available.