ASHBURN, Va. — The two bright yellow jerseys, No. 8 and No. 7, floated around the practice fields under picturesque skies at Redskins Park on Monday, trading places and opportunities. The veteran Case Keenum took the first snaps in 7-on-7 and full-team drills with a new burgundy No. 8 on his chest, repeating a familiar scenario. The rookie, Dwayne Haskins, followed in the No. 7 and seemed to get equal repetitions on the first day of organized team activities.
A freak injury that forced linebacker Reuben Foster to be carted off the field after the second snap of the day became the top headline, but all eyes remain on the team’s open quarterback competition. And with Colt McCoy still recovering from a third surgery following last season’s broken leg, the two newcomers have an early shot to make an impression.
“They have to learn the system first,” coach Jay Gruden said. “Then they have to go out here and participate in practice, then produce and make the right reads and throws. It’s going to be a process. This is just the very, very beginning.
“It’s just a long process, and I think they both handled it well today. Hopefully, they’ll do better tomorrow and the next day and so on and so forth. I’m sure it’ll be a good lengthy competition with great players going at it.
Keenum has been in this situation before. This is his sixth NFL team, and he’s started at least two games every season since 2013, including being the full-time starter with the Minnesota Vikings and Denver Broncos the past two seasons. He’s still learning the playbook, so there are smaller details for him to learn specific to the Redskins’ offense. The 31-year-old was accurate on the first day but didn’t push the ball downfield much.
“It’s normal,” Keenum said about fighting for the starting job. “I compete everyday whether I’m playing football, playing ping-pong, playing golf. I’m competing. I’m competing against myself, I’m competing against the defense. In the quarterback room, we’re always competing. Competition makes you better, and that’s what the spring’s about.”
On the other end of the spectrum, Haskins has zero pro experience and just 14 college starts on his resume. The 22-year-old simply wanted to call the plays correctly in the huddle, and he said the offense’s terminology is his biggest challenge at the moment. He hasn’t been overwhelmed — saying “football’s football” — and is appreciative that Keenum has been supportive in answering his questions.
The 15th overall pick looked smooth Monday, and he took more chances downfield than Keenum. He was picked off by rookie Jimmy Moreland when college teammate Terry McLaurin dropped a pass but had a few nice connections with tight end Jeremy Sprinkle and wide receiver Cam Sims.
“Once I know what I’m doing, get my eyes in the right place, it’s pretty good for me,” Haskins said. “It just comes with the process of learning. The most learning I do is in meetings and board work and the film room. That’s what happens. When you work hard there, you play well on the field. So that’s what I do.”
Gruden said the Redskins will grade the quarterbacks after each practice and see how they develop, but there isn’t any need to rush. Haskins didn’t typically call plays from under center at Ohio State, so there’s an acclimation process there. Keenum is new to the Redskins’ verbiage, so that will take time. The competition has begun, but Gruden and the coaching staff will allow the quarterbacks time to get comfortable before forming any major judgments.
“We don’t expect perfection on Day One,” Gruden said, “but we do expect the guys to know what we’re doing when we go out on the practice field, execute and continue to get better each and every day. Somebody’s going to rise, I would think. Cream always rises to the top, and we’re hoping that’s the case.”