It might be some time before Jay Gruden announces his starting quarterback for the opener against the Eagles, as he has more than a month to watch all three develop. The quarterbacks continue to get close to equal reps in practice so far and it appears early on that Case Keenum and Colt McCoy are battling for the top spot early in the season.
Rookie Dwayne Haskins has had bright spots in practice, but has struggled at times as well. That’s no surprise, seeing how he is learning an NFL offense for the first time. It may seem like a simple thing, but rookie quarterbacks have a lot to learn about the next level starting with the cadence of his snap-count.
“In college, I said two words and they were ‘set, go,'” he said. “Now I’ve got cadences, I’ve got different checks, different pronunciations for stuff. I’m trying to figure out how to flip the protection without making the right tackle jump. It’s just nuances of operation that you have to be conscious of playing quarterback, and that’s something I have to get experience doing.”
Keenum is in the same boat as Haskins, learning the offense for the first time. He’s been through this before so the challenge isn’t as big for Keenum, but still knows he has plenty of work to do.
“I feel good,” he said. “But at the same time, I’m a long way away. I think there’s a lot of room to grow. I love this offense. It’s one of my favorite offenses I’ve ever played in. I love the way Jay [Gruden], Kev [Kevin O’Connell, Offensive Coordinator], Cav [Matt Cavanaugh, Senior Offensive Assistant] – those guys and Tim [Ratty, Quarterbacks Coach] – the way they see the field. The way they see offense, the way some of the same plays I’ve run, just different points where I’ve focused on different reads, take me to different places where I might’ve not gone before. So, I really like it. It’s good, and it’s nice to have a spring under my belt where I can kind of work on those little intricacies and details.”
Keenum also notes that being in the competition with Haskins and McCoy can only help the team get better.
“I think you can definitely benefit,” he said. “The team is better when we’re all competing against each other to make each other better. That’s at each position group. We’re all rooting each other on, too, which is good. We’re all good guys in that meeting room.”
Being one of the veterans in that room, and despite competing with Haskins, he also knows he’s here to help the rookie adjust to the NFL.
“He’s making leaps and bounds,” he said. “He’s a really good football player and he’s going to be a great quarterback for a long time. He makes some big time throws with guys in his face. I know we’re not getting hit right now, but there’s some big guys running at him — full speed on some plays — and, you know, some throws I’ve been really impressed by.”
Haskins has said all the right things as begins life in the NFL. He realizes he is in a pretty good spot being able to learn from the veterans on this team.
“It’s been great having guys like Case — Alex [Smith] has been in the meetings — and Colt, the coaches. Just being able to pick their brains every day, figure out new ways to get better, how to read defenses differently or find a trick to calling a play. I will do everything I can do to find little things to keep getting better.”
While his goal is to obviously start, his approach toward what he needs to focus on improving for himself within the competition is a mature one.
“Just one percent better,” he said. “One practice, one throw, one rep, one series at a time. It’s easy to look at the end goal and wanting to play and wanting to start, but that’s not the bigger picture. The bigger picture is being ready to play. That’s what I am working on.”
As Haskins continues to be third in the rotation this summer, he’s able to watch Keenum and McCoy ahead of him. McCoy is on the field for the first time since he broke his leg towards the end of last year in Philadelphia. The road back has been a long one for him, having three procedures done on his leg in the offseason.
“I worked really hard to be able to be out here right now,” he said. “Lots of hours doing rehab, lots of hours with our training staff. (I’m) still doing that, still working through those things, but I feel good.”
He steps back into a situation where he’s competing for a starting job but wasn’t able to be on the field during OTA’s to begin the competition.
“I certainly would have like to have been out there in the spring,” he said.
McCoy’s not worried about the offense or the system. More important for him is getting the feel for his wide receivers.
“I think the disadvantage would be that (Keenum and Haskins) got to throw with them all spring,” he said.
He also understands that while competing with Haskins, he feels like it’s his job as a veteran to help him as well.
“I told him day one, we’re competing,” he said. “We’re on the same team. The goal for us is to win. The coach is going to put the best player out there. Who he thinks is ready to lead this team. If that’s you, if that’s me, then we’re in this thing together and I think it’s been a good room so far.”
Follow along as George Wallace covers training camp in this WTOP live blog.
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