There aren’t many enticing quarterback competitions in the NFL this summer, so the Redskins‘ three-man race between first-round rookie Dwayne Haskins, veteran Case Keenum, and longtime backup Colt McCoy will have to suffice.
On that note, the Redskins provided an update on arguably the most compelling quarterback competition of the summer (the Dolphins‘ battle between Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen also has a case) on Sunday when they released their first unofficial depth chart ahead of their preseason opener. While the first unofficial depth chart shouldn’t be considered anything more than a rough draft, it did offer our first glimpse at how the quarterback competition is unfolding so far this summer.
As it stands, it’s McCoy listed as the starter with Keenum listed behind him as the backup and Haskins bringing up the rear as the third-string quarterback.
It’s not at all surprising that McCoy has taken an early lead. After all, he’s been in Washington since the beginning of the Jay Gruden era (2014), which means he should be the most familiar with the Redskins’ offense among a group that includes two newcomers. Since 2014, Keenum has played for the Texans, Rams, Vikings, and Broncos. He didn’t arrive in Washington, , until March. Meanwhile, Haskins is a rookie. He might be the only one of the three to have the potential to become the team’s franchise quarterback, but he also might be the furthest behind in the battle to become the team’s Week 1 starter.
Redskins coach Jay Guden alluded to McCoy’s experience when assessing the current state of the ongoing battle.
“I think they’ve all done some really good things without a doubt and they’ve all done some things that we’ve got to coach. That’s just the way it is at the quarterback position,” Gruden said, per the team’s official website.
“Colt’s [McCoy] got the most experience in the system, but he still hasn’t played a whole lot. He hasn’t taken a lot of reps. Last year it was all about Alex [Smith], the year before that it was all about Kirk [Cousins], and getting them ready,” Gruden added. “Case [Keenum] has all the reps, but he doesn’t have much experience in the system. He’s doing a nice job, and obviously Dwayne [Haskins] is a rookie. All three of them have shown flashes of being really good and really productive, and all three have shown flashes of, ‘Hey, we’ve got to get better.”
Again, just because McCoy is leading the way in early August doesn’t mean he will be starting in early September when the Redskins open up their season against the Eagles. The preseason will likely determine who emerges with the starting job. It just means McCoy might get the first crack at first-team reps.
But based on the way McCoy has played throughout his career, there’s a good chance he’ll be supplanted on the depth chart at some point over the next month. If he does manage to win the job entering the regular season, there’s a good chance he won’t make 16 starts. In his career, McCoy has completed 60.5 percent of his passes, averaged 6.6 yards per attempt, thrown a touchdown on 3.2 percent of his passes and an interception on 2.9 percent of his passes, and accumulated a 78.9 passer rating. There’s a reason he’s been a backup for most of his career. He’s not a starting-caliber quarterback.
Keenum also might not be a starting-caliber quarterback, but he has been better than McCoy. In his career, he’s completed 62 percent of his passes, average 6.9 yards per attempt, thrown a touchdown on 3.5 percent of his passes and an interception on 2.3 percent of his passes, and accumulated an 84.5 passer rating. Furthermore, Keenum has played the best football of his career over the past two seasons in Minnesota and Denver, starting 30 games with 31 overall appearances and posting an 88.9 passer rating. Assuming he’s able to fully grasp the system by September, which is very much doable, he should be able to beat out McCoy.
Obviously, the best-case scenario for the Redskins is to see enough from Haskins to put him in under center in Week 1. But Haskins’ NFL-readiness remains an unknown. Given how poorly the past few seasons have gone, Gruden might not feel like he’s in a position to start a rookie quarterback when he needs to win right now. In that sense, Gruden might prefer to start one of his veterans, even though their long-term value to the team is minimal. So, for Haskins to win the starting job, he’ll likely need to prove he’s also the best quarterback in the short term in addition to holding the most long-term value to the franchise.
On Thursday, the Redskins will face the Browns as they get their preseason slate going. That game should provide a little more clarity on the state of the quarterback competition in Washington.