QB shakeup in Washington: Kyle Allen starting, Dwayne Haskins benched, Alex Smith No. 2

Eric Edholm
·5-min read

The Washington Football Team is making a change at quarterback, according to NFL Network.

Dwayne Haskins, the franchise’s first-round pick in 2019, is out after starting the first four games during a 1-3 start. Replacing him will be Kyle Allen, whom Washington acquired via trade from the Carolina Panthers in the offseason.

The team wanted to see more consistency and growth from Haskins, who threw three interceptions — all in Week 3 against the Cleveland Browns — and fumbled four times (losing two of them). But apparently, what head coach Ron Rivera saw in Haskins against the Baltimore Ravens wasn’t enough for Haskins to keep his job.

Haskins threw for a career-high 314 yards in the loss, but he also was sacked three times for 40 yards and struggled on deep passes until late in the game. He also ran for a 1-yard score once the game was decided.

Allen and Rivera are familiar with one another. When they were together in Carolina the past two seasons, Allen started 13 games in 2018 and 2019. Allen led the Panthers to a 6-7 mark as a starter, completing 62.1 percent of his passes and throwing for 3,588 yards, 19 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.

Allen has yet to take a regular-season snap for Washington.

Incredibly, Alex Smith, whose miraculous comeback has been one of the most inspiring stories of the 2020 season, is one snap away from playing.

Smith reportedly will serve as the backup going forward, with Haskins demoted to the third QB spot. Smith missed the entire 2019 season while rehabilitating from a compound fracture in his leg that resulted in a broken tibia and fibula back in Week 11 of the 2018 season.

In 13 games (11 starts), Haskins completed 208 of 349 passes (59.6 percent) for 2,304 yards, 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also took 42 sacks (for 305 lost yards) and fumbled 10 times, losing three. The team had a 3-8 mark in Haskins’ starts, including a 1-3 record this season.

The Washington Football Team has benched quarterback Dwayne Haskins after four starts this season. (AP Photo/Darryl Webb)
The Washington Football Team has benched quarterback Dwayne Haskins after four starts this season. (AP Photo/Darryl Webb)

What does this mean for Haskins’ future?

Rivera has consistently said that he wanted to see growth from Haskins. So far, that hasn’t happened enough for Rivera’s liking, even with a better outing vs. the Ravens.

One other thing that Rivera has casually mentioned throughout the year, too, is that he’s not tethered to Haskins. The head coach, who has a strong voice in personnel matters with the team, has noted that a previous regime (led by team president Bruce Allen) was the one that drafted Haskins 15th overall a little more than a year ago.

Eyebrows were raised with Rivera traded for Allen, but the coach said early on that Allen’s knowledge of offensive coordinator Scott Turner’s system was a big reason why the team sent a fifth-round pick to Rivera’s former team.

Now, though, Allen gets one more shot to start in the NFL.

Haskins, however, is now thrust into limbo. By dropping to the No. 3 role — behind a QB in Smith who wasn’t supposed to play again — Haskins’ footing on the team feels tenuous at best.

The former No. 15 overall pick might only be two years into a four-year deal, with a fifth-year option decision still more than a year away, but Haskins will have a hard time seeing a future in Washington.

There was buzz around draft time that Washington, which owned the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft, was meeting with the draft’s top quarterbacks. In fact, it was Rivera who offered up that information at the time.

Some felt Rivera was providing a smoke screen, and the team ended up selecting pass rusher Chase Young in that spot. But it feels clear now that the coach likely had some doubts about Haskins then, just as he clearly does now.

And if the franchise ends up with a high pick again, it stands to reason that they would entertain using it on a quarterback if they find one they like. Allen likely would need to play lights-out — and far better than he did as Cam Newton’s replacement last season — to convince the team he’s the future there.

The most obvious resolution would be for the franchise to try to trade Haskins, even though doing so likely would come at a net loss in value. There’s little chance that another team would sacrifice a first-round pick in return.

In many ways, it could mirror what happened with the Arizona Cardinals, who traded up to pick UCLA QB Josh Rosen 10th overall in 2018 before shifting gears completely in selecting Kyler Murray No. 1 overall in 2019.

Rosen then was traded to the Miami Dolphins for a 2019 second-round pick (62nd overall) and a 2020 fifth-rounder. He’s now on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ practice squad after Miami released Rosen this summer.

For Haskins’ sake, you’d hope he doesn’t suffer a similar fate as Rosen. But landing in a better spot won’t be so easy, with 15 other teams using top-50 draft picks on quarterbacks since the 2017 NFL draft. There’s also the looming 2021 NFL draft, which is likely to feature a minimum of three first-round quarterbacks — with a few more QB prospects elevating their stocks to possibly join that group.

Perhaps Haskins might be a target of a team such as the Chicago Bears or Indianapolis Colts, who could be at QB crossroads in the offseason. But staying on the Washington Football Team long-term is just hard to envision with Wednesday’s developments.

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