The LA Rams are solely focused on the New York Giants for this Sunday’s Week 4 contest, but they’ll close their NFC East schedule by the following week against Washington Football Team. The Rams next two opponents are a combined 1-5 under first year head coaches in large part due to their inability to get a passing game going around their 2019 first round quarterbacks. In the case of the Giants, that would be Daniel Jones and Joe Judge but Washington’s got a veteran in charge with Ron Rivera and he may not have as much patience with his quarterback.
J.P. Finlay of NBC Sports reported on Friday that Rivera told quarterback Dwayne Haskins that it is time to play better or that Football Team was prepared to make a change.
Sources told NBC Sports Washington that during the meeting Rivera explained that while Haskins has a lot of talent and showed significant growth this offseason learning the playbook and in training camp, his play through three games has been lacking. What’s worse, last week’s game in Cleveland showed clear regression and one source explained that cannot continue if Haskins wants to stay on the field. Offensive coaches also sat down with Haskins this week to highlight opportunities to make plays and show missed chances that could lead to better results.
While coaches meeting with the quarterback is quite normal, one source explained the tone of the meetings made clear the gravity of the situation: It’s time to play better.
Haskins finished third in Heisman voting at Ohio State in 2018, throwing 50 touchdowns and eight interceptions that season with current teammate Terry McLaurin as one of his top targets. Washington made him the 15th overall pick and intended to sit him during his rookie season behind Case Keenum, but that went on for about as long as can be expected. Haskins took over in Week 9 against the Buffalo Bills, completing 15 of 22 passes for 144 yards and getting sacked four times.
His two best games — and possibly only two good games so far — came in Weeks 15 and 16 against the Giants and Philadelphia Eagles, with Haskins completing 31 of 43 passes for 394 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions with one fumble lost. But so far this season Haskins is only completing 56.4-percent of his pass attempts for 6.2 yards per attempt and last week he threw three interceptions against the Cleveland Browns in a 34-20 loss.
Haskins does have a higher passer rating than Kirk Cousins, Sam Darnold, Jones and Carson Wentz. That list comprises three of the four NFC East quarterbacks that the Rams will face in their first five weeks and if Darnold is still starting by then, the New York Jets come to LA in Week 15.
But first Haskins has to make it to Week 5.
Washington’s backup quarterback is Kyle Allen, Rivera’s starter with the Carolina Panthers for 12 games last season. Allen completed 62-percent of his passes with 17 touchdowns and 16 interceptions, 6.8 yards per attempt and he lost more yards on sacks (397) than any other quarterback despite his lack of comparable playing time to most starters. Allen was 30th in passer rating and 32nd in adjusted net yards per attempt.
Haskins was 33rd out of 33 qualified players.
Which of course leads to Washington’s third option this season. Football Team has held onto Alex Smith throughout his rehab process and notably have kept him on the 53-man roster for 2020 as the number three quarterback. Rivera probably has a plan to keep Smith around for as long as possible without having to start him until after he’s had a chance to take some real snaps in a game, which hasn’t happened for him since November 18, 2018.
However, we also know these processes can move swiftly. If Haskins is benched during Football Team’s Week 4 game against the Baltimore Ravens — typically one of the best defenses in the NFL — then would Allen be named as the starter for Week 5 against the Rams? And if so, would Smith be elevated to the active roster as his backup? Or at least activated so Rivera has an opportunity to give him snaps in place of Allen, if possible?
It seems as though the return of Alex Smith is inevitable and many are hopeful it happens as soon, and safely, as possible. If Haskins doesn’t improve soon, it sounds as though the next step for that to happen will come next.
It’s worth noting that earlier in the week, Finlay said Haskins job was probably safe and that Rivera wouldn’t act swiftly to replace him.