LANDOVER, Md. -- In the first half of Sunday's game against the New York Giants, the Washington Redskins saw what they needed from Dwayne Haskins: a strong showing, building on his best performance the previous week. And then they saw something they didn't need: Haskins leaving the game with a left ankle injury.
But at least before leaving a 41-35 overtime loss to the New York Giants, Haskins showed more progress. In a season gone bad long ago, that's what the Redskins need to build on moving forward. He completed his first 10 passes and was 12-of-15 for 133 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. He threw in rhythm; he had a good grasp on the Giants' coverage -- helped by motion that made for an easy detection of man or zone. Haskins was accurate and decisive. And he continues to be comfortable outside the pocket extending plays: That's how he found Steven Sims Jr. for a diving 10-yard touchdown pass. It started with Haskins moving up in the pocket, staying patient and keeping his eyes downfield. In his past two games, Haskins completed a combined 31 of 46 passes for 394 yards and four touchdowns.
QB breakdown: Earlier this year one member of the organization said backup Case Keenum was the most prepared quarterback he'd ever been around. Keenum showed how much that mattered when he replaced Haskins and completed 16 of 22 passes for 158 yards and a rushing touchdown in leading a near comeback win. He made plays on the move and in rhythm. He found Sims on a third-and-9 from his own 1-yard line for 32 yards on a 99-yard scoring drive. Keenum had not played since Haskins became the starter in Week 9 -- save for taking one snap in victory formation. But you wouldn't have known that based on how he played Sunday.
Silver lining: The Redskins' young receivers continue to make plays, which should provide some optimism for the future. Terry McLaurin (seven catches, 86 yards), Sims (six for 64; two touchdowns) and Kelvin Harmon (five for 58) all contributed in a big way. Washington will want to add more receiving help in the offseason, but the Redskins do have a good foundation to build upon with these three. McLaurin heads the class and now has 919 yards for the season and will be a standout. The future for the other two could depend on who becomes the next coach. But Sims offers quickness and playmaking ability; Harmon offers muscle. All three made pivotal catches on the game-tying drive.
Troubling trend: The Redskins haven't figured out how to stop the run. That's not a trend; that's been an issue for a few seasons. In the past five years, their best finish in rushing yards allowed per game was 17th in 2018. Otherwise, they've been 24th or worse each year -- and entered Sunday ranked 28th. They have talented defensive linemen, but at times they're being double-teamed and trying to hold gaps. It's not always working. They need stronger run support from the cornerbacks and more sure tackling at free safety. Sunday, New York's Saquon Barkley rushed for 189 yards on 22 carries with a 67-yard score that featured a missed tackle by linebacker Cole Holcomb, and safety Montae Nicholson couldn't get him, either. The Redskins have talent on defense; this shouldn't keep happening.
Biggest hole in the game plan: The Giants did a good job of keeping the Redskins in their base defense at times and then throwing the ball. They were able to find holes in the Redskins' zone coverage because they kept getting rookie outside linebackers in coverage. That meant Montez Sweat was forced into coverage too often; it wasn't all bad for Sweat as his strength and athleticism helped. Other times the linebackers were lost and failed to cover the backs and tight ends. The Redskins gave up multiple touchdowns simply because they left targets uncovered. But the Redskins also were playing with three cornerbacks who weren't on the roster at the start of the season -- and two were only recently signed. It added up to this: Daniel Jones completed 28 of 42 passes for 352 yards and five touchdowns.