LANDOVER, MD. (AP) — Coach Ron Rivera on Wednesday announced Dwayne Haskins will be Washington’s starting quarterback for Week 1 against the Philadelphia Eagles.
It’s not a surprising development but a confirmation that the 2019 first-round pick did enough to earn the job under Rivera’s new regime. Haskins got the nod over Kyle Allen, whom Rivera knew well from his time with Carolina, and veteran Alex Smith, who’s less than two years removed from breaking his right leg.
“Dwayne’s lived up to everything we talked about in January,” Rivera said. “He deserves the opportunity. He’s going to get the opportunity, and he’s going to get my support.”
Rivera noticed Haskins getting ahead of the learning curve in training camp after no in-person offseason workouts disrupted the 23-year-old’s opportunity to learn new offensive coordinator Scott Turner’s system.
“I just wanted to come in and show how much work I put in this offseason,” Haskins said Monday. “I’m just trying to do my best and master the offense as much as I can on a daily basis.
Washington’s first-year coach joked he declared Haskins the starter now so he wouldn’t have to keep answering the question, but it’s also a statement by Rivera to his team with time running out before the Sept. 13 regular-season opener against Philadelphia.
“I made a commitment 10 years ago to another young quarterback,” Rivera said, referring to Cam Newton. “Just told (Haskins), ‘I’m choosing you because I believe in you.'”
While Rivera became a first-time NFL head coach in Newton’s rookie year in 2011, he’s inheriting Haskins after he was taken with the 15th overall pick a draft before he arrived. Newton started for him with the Panthers for eight seasons before injuries took their toll.
But Rivera sees plenty of comparisons between young Newton and Haskins, saying they throw the ball in a similar way to make it easy to catch for receivers.
Haskins became the starter in Week 9 last year, going 2-5 in his first seven pro starts on the way to Washington finishing 3-13. Counting a couple of relief appearances, the Ohio State product completed 119 of 203 passes for 1,365 yards, seven touchdowns and seven interceptions.
He feels more confident and patient after an offseason of reflection, video review and practice.
“When I got drafted, I wanted to show that I was a franchise quarterback here,” Haskins said. “Things happened and they made some changes around here. This new coaching staff, I just wanted to show them how much I love the game, the leader that I want to be and how I can be reliable in situations, make the right plays and potentially get some wins.”
Rivera had been noncommittal about the quarterback position since taking over control of football operations.
Acquiring Allen from Carolina seemed like a signal he wasn’t comfortable with Haskins, but by the start of camp there was a clear delineation: Haskins took snaps with the first-team offense and it was his job to lose.
After weeks of joking he’d announce his starter Sept. 13, Rivera went back to that Wednesday when asked who will be Haskins’ backup. Smith still has not taken contact in his comeback from a broken fibula and tibia, making it likely Allen gets that role.
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