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The Giants Passed on Dwayne Haskins, but Dwayne Haskins Couldn’t Pass on the Giants

In a matchup between rookie quarterbacks, Daniel Jones outdueled the new Washington signal-caller. But this was only the first chapter in what could be a long NFC East rivalry.

NFL: Washington Redskins at New York Giants Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

When Dwayne Haskins was a kid, when he wasn’t playing football, he was playing Madden with his favorite team: the Eli Manning–led New York Giants. Haskins grew up in Highland Park, New Jersey, just 45 minutes from the Giants’ stadium. In January, Haskins posted a now-deleted tweet of himself Photoshopped into a Giants jersey as Manning’s real-life replacement.

“I’ve been a Giants fan for a long time,” Haskins told the New York Post in December 2018.

A lifelong dream can fade away in seconds, and when the team selected Duke’s Daniel Jones with the no. 6 pick in April, Haskins was visibly upset. He ended up going no. 15 to Washington, which was another homecoming of sorts. Haskins played high school football in Potomac, Maryland, 45 minutes from FedEx Field in Landover.

Five months after the Giants passed on Haskins, Haskins could not pass on the Giants. In his first NFL game, Haskins completed 9 of 17 passes for 107 yards, no touchdowns, and three interceptions in Washington’s 24-3 loss to the Giants on Sunday. More than a third of his passing yards came on a 39-yard screen to running back Chris Thompson. Haskins was outdueled by New York’s Daniel Jones, who went 23-of-31 for 225 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. Washington was outplayed by the Giants, and while the former’s season is more or less over, this game was simply the first chapter of the Haskins-Jones rivalry.

Washington head coach Jay Gruden didn’t want to play Haskins at all on Sunday. Instead, he opted to start the game with incumbent quarterback Case Keenum, but after Washington’s first four drives went for 22 combined yards and ended with three punts, one interception, and one first down, Gruden benched Keenum and began the Haskins era. On Haskins’s first drive, he led the offense to three first downs en route to the Giants’ 3-yard line, but the team settled for a field goal to make the game 14-3 just before halftime. It was the first and last Washington scoring drive of the day. The Giants kicked a field goal to make it 17-3 at halftime, and then Washington’s second-half drives went thusly:

  1. Punt
  2. Pick-Six
  3. Punt
  4. Interception
  5. Punt
  6. Interception

Ironically, Haskins threw his first career touchdown to a Giant. On second-and-10 at Washington’s 22-yard line, Haskins looked for tight end Jeremy Sprinkle but instead found Giants safety Jabrill Peppers, who returned it for a touchdown.

Haskins looked like, well, a rookie who was seeing his first action after being inserted midgame on the road against a division rival. He ended the day with three picks, two to Giants corner Janoris Jenkins.

That interception was not Haskins’s fault—it bounced off of tight end Vernon Davis’s hands—but Haskins threw an interceptable pass one play earlier that safety Michael Thomas dropped.

“It seems like the defense woke up,” former Giants defensive end Michael Strahan said on the Fox postgame show. It also seemed like Haskins had not been properly prepared.

While Haskins looked overwhelmed in a week he did not practice as the starter, Jones looked capable for the second consecutive week after his legendary debut in Tampa. His first drive of the day was for 32 yards, capped by a touchdown pass to running back Wayne Gallman. Gallman added a rushing touchdown at the beginning of the second quarter.

But things weren’t quite as sunny the rest of the day for Jones. The rookie threw the first two interceptions of his career in a turnover-laden day for New York. Gallman lost a fumble, and so did backup running back Jonathan Hilliman, who was signed after Saquon Barkley suffered a high ankle sprain last week. But while New York did not win the turnover battle on Sunday, they did win the points off of turnovers battle. The Giants turned four turnovers into 14 points, while Washington turned four into three points.

It wasn’t just a sloppy game for both teams. The refereeing was splotchy, with 17 penalties—one of which prompted announcer Thom Brennaman to call the game “drenched in yellow.” Above all, it was a sloppy game for Gruden, who couldn’t put Haskins into any position to succeed all day. Gruden’s job is in limbo after starting 0-4, and hosting the Patriots next week won’t help. Meanwhile, Jones has gone 2-0 in two starts and jump-started the Giants offense, which looked anemic with Manning at the helm. But over the next two weeks, New York will take on the Vikings and the Patriots, pitting Jones against the two toughest defenses he’s ever seen by far.

Jones and Haskins had divergent days, but they’ve also had wildly different football careers. Haskins was a five-star high school recruit. Daniel Jones did not have a star. Haskins was recruited by Ohio State, and Jones had to beg for a spot at Duke. Haskins played two seasons at OSU and set Big 10 records with 4,831 receiving yards and 50 passing touchdowns in his sophomore year. Daniel Jones played three seasons at Duke and had 52 passing touchdowns total.

But Haskins’s and Jones’s careers are intertwined now. The two players could very well play for their teams throughout the 2020s. Football is a small world, but this game might have been the beginning of a giant rivalry.