They’re in different situations yet doing the same job: learning an NFL offense and trying to figure out how to beat NFL defenses.
Quarterback Kyler Murray, the No. 1 overall pick in 2019, opened camp as Arizona’s starter. Daniel Jones (drafted No. 6 overall) is playing behind longtime starter Eli Manning in New York. Dwayne Haskins (drafted No. 15 overall) is behind Colt McCoy and Case Keenum in Washington. Jones and Haskins have the luxury of sitting and learning; Murray must lead his team now.
Here’s an update from NFL Nation reporters in Arizona (Josh Weinfuss), New York (Jordan Raanan) and Washington (John Keim), analyzing how the young quarterbacks are faring thus far in training camp:
Kyler Murray, Cardinals
Highlights: Where to start? Murray has been showing off all facets of his game in training camp, especially during 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 drills, from his passing to his running to his poise to his understanding of the offense. He came into the NFL with a reputation as a top-tier passer, but he might be raising the expectations. He has been displaying an accuracy that allows him to put passes in tight windows, a velocity that has made it tough for defenders to get their hands on his passes and a touch that has seen defensive backs grasping flat-footed when Murray lofts a pass just out of reach, putting it where only the receiver can make a play.
When Murray has pulled the ball down to run or had a designed run, he has shown quickness and speed that should make him a dynamic quarterback. He seems to find an extra gear when he hits the corner, allowing him to elude linebackers who are left grasping for air as he flies by. Then there’s Murray’s poise, which begets a maturity on the field far beyond his years. That stems from his intimate understanding of what first-year Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury is trying to do on offense. Murray has been running the scheme since he was in the eighth grade. He quickly began calling audibles and lining up players at the onset of camp, helping veterans such as Larry Fitzgerald.
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Needs work: Murray has not struggled much early in camp. Sure, there are passes that are too high or too wide, but they have been rare. The biggest issue that’s noticeable is how he starts 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 periods slowly, whether that means missing often during his first few passes or throwing an interception. He usually calms down quickly, and when he does, he’s deadly accurate, rattling off sometimes 10 or more consecutive completions. His slow starts are worrisome only because they raise the possibility that he could start games the same way. One interception early in the first quarter could be a game-changer.
Quote: “Early on, I really liked what I’ve seen because I think he can check a lot of those boxes. And, me, as an accurate quarterback when I played, I look for accuracy. And what does that mean? The biggest thing is, are most balls within the realm of what their receiver’s doing? It doesn’t mean you complete every pass. It doesn’t mean every 45-yard pass is perfect on the money, but you don’t see him overthrow guys by 10 yards. You don’t see him throw balls into the dirt. Everything is in the vicinity of his receiver. And that, to me, bodes well that he’s got a chance to be a really accurate quarterback.” — Hall of Fame quarterback and NFL Network analyst Kurt Warner
Daniel Jones, Giants
Dan Orlovsky and Booger McFarland share expectations for Giants rookie Daniel Jones and a potential timeline for him to start at QB over Eli Manning.
Highlights: Jones has experienced the standard rookie ups and downs, but what has stood out is his ability to throw the deep ball and his willingness to pull the trigger. There seems to be no fear in the No. 6 overall pick to make a mistake downfield, and his deep-ball accuracy has been impressive. He seems to complete one every day, whether it’s to veteran Russell Shepard or the inexperienced Alonzo Russell. “He’s going to throw it. He’s going to throw it, man,” Shepard said. “He throws a really good deep ball. One of the better deep balls I’ve seen, especially at this point of his career.”
Jones has worked exclusively with the second team. Coach Pat Shurmur said recently that first-team snaps “might happen” at some point this summer. Regardless, it would take something crazy for Jones to be the Week 1 starter. He’s the backup, and the Giants would prefer to follow the Patrick Mahomes-Chiefs model and keep him behind Manning this season.
Still, the early returns at camp have been positive. Jones drove his unit down for a score in his only shot at a two-minute drill at Wednesday’s practice, and the Giants love the way he works, processes information and learns from his mistakes. The rookie came in on his off day to study film, prepare for the following day’s practice and sneak in a light workout. Shurmur described his new quarterback as “pissed” when he threw his first interception five practices into camp. This is exactly what you want to see — and what the Giants expected — from a young quarterback.
Needs work: Jones admitted that the biggest challenge has been that there is “a lot I haven’t seen before” in terms of defensive looks. This could explain why he has been up and down the past few days. Only some favorable bounces and good fortune prevented him from throwing a few more interceptions.
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But this is somewhat expected from a rookie quarterback. There will be struggles during camp. The key is seeing these new looks, learning from them and improving the next time. Warner recently told a story he heard about Peyton Manning as a rookie. Manning tried to make a throw on a specific play, and it was intercepted. He told running back Marshall Faulk it was a throw he could make. Next time — same play, same result. Manning was still confident he could make that throw at the NFL level. Then came the realization. “Eventually he goes [to Faulk]: I can’t make that throw in this league,” Warner said with a smile.
It’s true. The NFL is a different beast. In that sense, Jones is a long ways from Duke. This is a massive leap in competition, and the rookie is feeling his way through camp. The defensive players are bigger and better, and the schemes are more complex. For example, Jones has had a handful of passes batted down at the line of scrimmage early in camp. It isn’t likely something to be worried about long term. “I don’t see a trend there,” Shurmur said. It’s one of the many minor details he needs to iron out.
Quote: “Definitely he’s probably had some of the best deep balls at OTAs and camp of all the quarterbacks. He’s done a good job, man.” — Shepard
Dwayne Haskins, Redskins
Highlights: Redskins offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell said that every day there’s a throw on which the coaches say, “no, no, no … nice throw.” They consider Haskins to have “special arm talent,” and that’s true, especially when he’s comfortable with the pre-snap read.
Sometimes his best throws don’t result in anything — running back Byron Marshall dropped a perfect ball from him on a wheel route the other day, for example. The fourth day of camp was his best, when he didn’t turn it over and was more accurate. On one red zone play, he identified a blitzer on his right side, backed away from center and pointed it out. Then Haskins stepped under center, and as the blitzer came, he threw to the other side for a score. It was a glimpse, the Redskins hope, of what’s to come.
On the same day, he threw a nice slot fade to receiver Trey Quinn against cornerback Josh Norman, putting it where only Quinn had a shot at the ball. Haskins has shown touch, too.
There are times when he might take an extra hitch on his throw, but because of his arm, he still gets the throw off on time. They like his willingness to listen and learn. He missed a throw early in camp to receiver Josh Doctson, throwing the ball before Doctson broke. After the play, coach Jay Gruden pulled Haskins aside and went over the play. Haskins later told the media that he needed to take one little hitch before throwing, allowing the receiver time to get open on this option route. Haskins will improve if he continues to heed their words.
Needs work: Gruden said the Redskins are focused on having Haskins be able to call the plays in the huddle more quickly, allowing him to get to the line faster and giving him more time to read the defense. As Haskins continues to learn, he’s often taking more time in the huddle than coaches would like. He wears a wristband to help with the long playcalls, but there are still times when he goes to the line trying to remember all that goes into a play rather than thinking freely and playing naturally.
Haskins has struggled in two-minute situations. In one practice, he was intercepted twice while running this drill. On the second, he was under duress and could not step into the throw. But he quickly learned: In that scenario, he shouldn’t throw to the flat, which is where corner Jimmy Moreland stepped in front of the receiver for an easy pick. A day later, the defense forced Haskins into an errant throw by disguising the coverage well. The single-high safety sprinted up to the middle on the snap. The other safety sprinted from the other side and replaced him. It wasn’t a pick, but he was fooled.
He also needs work against the blitz — identifying it, adjusting protections and knowing where to throw. He could probably checkdown more, but the other aspects are what matter most to the Redskins. Because Haskins is a pocket passer, they want him more comfortable in all facets, knowing that unlike Murray, his legs will not bail him out of plays.
Quote: “The biggest hurdle for him is the limited time we have from the time we drafted him, just getting acclimated to our system … and how we can coach him to anticipate things, understand what he’s seeing before it happens. And once all that happens, if he shows he can go in the classroom, hear some information and apply it to the offense he’s already mastered, then you have to start thinking of him as a big-time option for us.” — Kevin O’Connell, Redskins offensive coordinator
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