SNIDER: Haskins worth second look as Redskins starter

Dwayne Haskins knew pressure was nearby, but his eyes stayed on Robert Davis screaming downfield. Just before Cincinnati Bengals defenders reached the Redskins quarterback, he threw a deep ball into Davis' facemask en route to a 55-yard touchdown.

Maybe there is a quarterback contest after all.

With Colt McCoy nursing leg problems that kept him out of the Redskins' first two preseason games, Washington head coach Jay Gruden gave Case Keenum his second straight start. But, it was a lackluster 3 of 7 effort with every completion to tight ends. To be fair, a penalty negated a 47-yard touchdown to Steven Sims or the numbers would have looked better, but Keenum was basically working a vanilla game plan as Gruden calls each preseason.

Gruden gave Haskins more chances to prove himself. Facing Bengals second-stringers, the first-rounder was a bit so-so himself at 7 of 14 for 114 yards. A fumble when hit from behind. A few high throws. But, that one moment was magic and the Redskins offense needs a spark.

Is it too soon for the rookie? He didn't show any jitters in a FedEx Field debut on Thursday before maybe 10,000 fans. The effort was better than his two-interception debut against Cleveland. He looked a little more polished. Maybe Haskins isn't ready for prime time, but he's getting closer.

Yet, did Haskins do enough to start for the third preseason game at Atlanta on Aug. 22 that's considered the dress rehearsal for the regular-season opener? That would be a maybe. If nothing else, he didn't lose a chance.

Surely, Gruden will sidestep whether McCoy returns next week from his leg woes dating back to December. If McCoy's leg soreness hasn't passed, then his opportunity is gone. It's down to Haskins versus Keenum. And, the next game probably does decide who opens against Philadelphia on Sept. 8 since neither may play in the preseason finale versus Baltimore on Aug. 29.

The safer choice is to start Keenum. His experience is invaluable when facing four 2018 playoff teams in the opening five weeks. Anything worse than a 2-3 start condemns the season and brings in Haskins. Keenum hasn't done anything wrong over the preseason. He managed the games as Gruden likes. But, Keenum hasn't flashed anything saying he should absolutely start, either.

Haskins would be a gamble to open the season. A poor start would send him to the bench and that's not how the Redskins want the season to go. Better he finishes the year for momentum into 2020.

But watching Haskins show veteran poise in the pocket to hit that downfield receiver for a touchdown leads to maybe taking a chance. After all, the Redskins aren't expected to be contenders. Another lost season wouldn't be the first recently and at least they'd have a rookie ready for his second season.

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @Snide_Remarks