On Sunday, the Cleveland Browns’ take on the Washington Football Team. To help preview a few topics from Washington’s perspective, we reached out to Andrew York from Hogs Haven and exchanged five questions with him. Enjoy!
Chris: “Former Buckeyes quarterback Dwayne Haskins is leading the charge for Washington this year. In the limited amount of games he’s played since last season, what has been the good and the bad when it comes to the young QB?”
Andrew: “First, it bears mentioning that he was incredibly raw coming into the NFL. He only had one full season as a starter in college, and although it was one heck of a season due to the scheme and the weapons he had around him, it left him very raw in his mechanics and ability to go through progressions. When he was taken in the draft last year, the plan was to let him develop on the bench for a season, but injuries and lack of QB talent above him forced him into service. He looked dreadful in his first few appearances last year, but started to improve and pick up steam as the season went on, finally looking like a fairly competent rookie QB by the end of the season. He worked very hard in the offseason, shed weight, and practiced quite a bit with his WRs to develop chemistry. However, a new scheme and a shortened offseason have meant a new set of challenges.
In terms of how he looks from a fundamentals point of view in weeks 1 and 2, I think he looks greatly improved from a mental standpoint. Last year he had trouble audibling at the line (leading to a few false starts by the OL), had trouble reading defenses and calling protections (leading to free rushers), and was slow to go through progressions and read the field. I haven’t seen those problems this year, and he’s actually been quite good at adjusting protections for blitzers and going through progressions when he drops back. He also seems to be instinctively good at knowing where to place the ball so that only his receiver can catch it, leading to very few turnover worthy plays (he had the lowest turnover worthy play rate among rookie QBs last year too). He also has a cannon of an arm and can throw downfield with ease (though sometimes he puts a bit too much zip on his ball).
It hasn’t all been good though. His throwing mechanics still need a lot of work, particularly his footwork. As a result, he has been inconsistent with his accuracy, despite having more than enough arm strength to get the ball wherever he wants it to go. In the first two games this year, he has also seemed to start the games a bit too hyped up, leading to poor timing and accuracy in the first half (though he seems to calm down and become more accurate in the second half). Although he is good at sensing pressure in the pocket, he doesn’t seem to be good at knowing where to go to avoid that pressure, and has run into a couple of sacks already.
Beyond that, it’s been hard to evaluate him because Washington has not put a good offensive team around him. His OL is a mess and his pass catchers other than Terry McLaurin have trouble getting separation. The offense has also been pretty simple schematically, which I think is due at least partially to the short offseason and number of young players. I think Dwayne has actually done a good job maintaining composure given the situation, but it’s not a great setup for a young QB to succeed.”
Chris: “Speaking of Ohio State, Washington seems to have a thing for drafting Buckeye after Buckeye now. Tell us about how WR Terry McLaurin has flourished, and the type of impact that DE Chase Young has had through his first two games.”
Andrew: “Terry McLaurin has been the only consistently good weapon for Haskins since last season. Nicknamed “F1 McLaurin” by fans, he has 4.3 speed, good hands, is a savvy route runner, and is a good and willing blocker. He almost broke 1000 yards last year despite run-heavy playcalling and 3 different QBs throwing to him (none of them very good). This year, he has gone 5-61-0 in week 1 while shadowed by Darius Slay and went 7-125-1 in week 2 while shadowed by Patrick Peterson. His biggest improvement from last year to this year has been in his yards after catch; a lot of those yards (and the TD) week 2 came on short slants that he turned into an 18 yards per reception average. He’s really the one consistent bright spot on offense for this team.
Chase Young was taken at number 2 overall despite the fact that we are already deep at DL because he is just that talented, and he has shown it so far this season. He’s had 2.5 sacks, 2 TFL, and 4 solo tackles in the first 2 weeks of play. His getoff and hand usage are amazing, and he has already been demanding double teams and more offensive scheming than the other members on an already talented DL. What’s stood out to me is also his play recognition and ability to disrupt plays that break away from him. He’s displayed a veteran’s ability to sniff out screen passes, along with tremendous motor to get to the sideline to make a tackle on a play that broke behind or away from him. It’s his maturity, work ethic, and effort in games that make me optimistic about his future even more than his athletic ability.”
Chris: “How is Washington’s offensive line? What is the unit’s biggest area of weakness?”
Andrew: “It’s been a mess so far, though it is young and we’re hoping it improves as the young players develop during the season. Our RT Morgan Moses has probably been the best player on the OL the last two games. He’s a veteran and looks to be taking well to the zone based scheme Rivera and company have introduced.
Our starting RG Brandon Scherff will miss this game due to an injury last week, and in his place will be journeyman backup Wes Schweitzer. We haven’t seen much of him and don’t know what to expect, but expectations are not high. Our center Chase Roullier is starting his 4th year in the NFL and has been competent (if unspectacular) so far.
The problems really start on the left side of the OL. LG Wes Martin is in his 2nd year and LT Geron Christian is in his 3rd year and both have only been backups until this season. Their week 1 debut was really rough, and although they looked a bit better in week 2, that is still clearly the weakness of the OL.”
Chris: “What is Washington’s weakest position on defense that Cleveland could try to capitalize on?”
Andrew: “Either our free safety Troy Apke or our linebackers in coverage. This is Apke’s first year starting (though 3rd in the NFL) and he’s been caught flat footed, slow to react to plays, and taking poor angles on tackles. Anything you can do to exploit the backend coverage will probably work so long as the OL can protect your QB long enough for the play to develop.
Our LB unit is the weakest area of the defense in terms of draft resources and FA money spent. Although I think a lot of them are “good for the price,” they were discounted for a reason. They are overall pretty fast, good tacklers, and good against the run, but lack instincts in coverage.”
Chris: “Tell us about one player on offense and one player on defense who Browns fans might not be familiar with, but who could make a nice contribution for this week’s game.”
Andrew: “Antonio Gibson is a RB taken by the team in the 3rd round of this year’s draft, despite far more pressing needs elsewhere on the roster. Although he is raw, the team loved his versatility and athletic ability. He was cross trained at both WR and RB in college, so he’s pretty versatile. His Combine testing was pretty impressive too, measuring 6’0” tall, weighing 228 pounds, yet running the 40 yard dash in 4.39 seconds, and showing off a 35” vertical and 118” broad jump. He was overlooked by many because poor grades in high school forced him to go the JUCO route and he played for a smaller school (Memphis) in college, but a few pre-draft pundits thought he was one of the most explosive players of the draft. He’s been worked into the offense slowly so far, but he’s already shown good explosiveness and ability to break tackles and I think his role will continue to expand with every game.
DT Matt Ioannidis might be the most underrated player on our team. Most fans outside of our division haven’t heard of him, but he’s quietly and consistently been a bulwark on the inside of our defensive line. He racked up 8.5 sacks, 11 TFL, and 64 combined tackles last season, and has 1.5 sacks, 2 TFL, and 7 combined tackles so far this season. He was a 5th round pick in 2016 who was put on the practice squad his first year, but has quietly worked his way up the ranks and improved incrementally every year since then. He really gets better every year, and I’m excited to see what he accomplishes this year.”
Thanks again to Andrew for taking the time to answer my questions.