ASHBURN, Va. -- Dwayne Haskins feels it when he's on the field, whether in practice or the games. It's why he's ready -- and hopeful -- about the next seven games now that he'll be the Washington Redskins' starting quarterback the rest of the season. It's why the Redskins (1-8) hope they see progress, providing a boost heading into the offseason.
"A lot more comfortable, a lot more confident. Different me back there," Haskins said.
That was in comparison to his first outing, a relief appearance against the New York Giants in Week 4. Multiple people in the organization felt it was an eye-opening experience for Haskins, not because of the numbers he produced (9-for-17, three interceptions), but because of the sort of mistakes he made -- botched playcalls led to confusion in assignments at the line of scrimmage, for example.
Haskins, the No. 15 pick in April, will play in front of his home fans for the first time Sunday against the New York Jets (1 p.m. ET, Fox). His first three outings -- including his first start in Week 9 at Buffalo -- came on the road.
Regardless, he says the difference stems from what happens during the week to make him more comfortable. He has been taking almost all of the first-team reps in practice for the past three-plus weeks.
"I just felt like the more reps I get, the easier it'll be for me to be able to play naturally, instinctively," Haskins said. "As I play, the more mistakes I'll learn from and the better plays I'll make."
The caveats still remain: He's young (he turned 22 in May); he's still learning all the ways he must prepare and with what intensity. There's still uncertainty about where he goes from here. But steps have been taken. Progress has been made -- often in subtle ways.
"He'd be the first to tell you he's taken a lot more ownership," said Redskins receiver Terry McLaurin, a teammate at Ohio State as well. "When he wasn't the starter it's easy to be like, 'I may not have to prepare as well,' but these last three or four weeks he's prepared like he was going to be the starter, even before he was. That helped the transition.
"He took more ownership of calling plays in the huddle to make sure and get it right. If he didn't get it right he was calling back the offense. Little things like that he may not have done Week 1 in camp, but now that he's comfortable and getting more reps."
Offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell has helped facilitate that change by devoting extra time to meet with Haskins multiple days per week. It's part tutoring and part learning what plays he's most comfortable running. Haskins also has started to smooth out the huddle issues. He had some problems in the Minnesota game on Oct. 24. The Buffalo game was better.
"Being able to look guys in the huddle and tell an All-Pro, Brandon Scherff, what the play is and have some authority behind it meant a lot for me," Haskins said. "The more that I got to do that, the more confident I was in being able to motivate the guys that are around me. ... The more games, the more plays I get, I feel like I'll continue to get better at that."
Haskins also said during the bye week that he met with Bryson Spinner, someone he first started working with while in high school. Spinner played quarterback in college -- first at the University of Virginia before transferring to Richmond. He also spent time with four different NFL teams, though he did not make a roster. He knows the position; he knows Haskins.
Spinner said he worked with Haskins on using more of his lower half when he throws, something he wasn't doing earlier this season, causing his passes to sail. They also have plans to watch film together at night.
"I saw an invigorated guy, the same guy I had seen in years previous," Spinner said. "A guy that was a lot more confident about the task at hand, more comfortable with his approach and figuring out what he needed to do differently at this level. He's still working on it ... [but] he has that swag about him again, that confidence.
"He's trying to figure out the best approach and what he's doing now is trying to show guys, 'This is what I'm about.'"
Part of the early struggles, Spinner said, were about Haskins needing to figure out life in the NFL. He also noted Haskins had to learn an offense that's complicated for anyone not coming from a West Coast system, and that everything he said and did was being watched by teammates at a different level than in college.
"It's just more intense, laser-focused, knowing that you're the franchise of the Washington Redskins now," Haskins said. "Everyone is watching what you're doing, how you handle yourself, how you walk in the building and how you walk into a meeting. That's all very important for the guys who want you to lead them."
Teammates say they have seen a change.
"He's light years from where he started," veteran running back Adrian Peterson said. "Us veteran guys, we can look back and know if a guy is on his stuff or not. The way you keep that respect with the veterans is coming out, being on point and executing. That's what he's been doing."
McLaurin knows as well as anyone what Haskins looks like on the field when he's rolling. He, of course, saw Haskins throw 50 touchdowns and only eight interceptions at Ohio State last season. He saw him play with a swagger, with poise and with confidence.
"I describe it as an elite shooter like Ray Allen ... being in a zone," McLaurin said. "It's like, man it doesn't matter who's in front of him and what he's seeing -- the ball is going in. I see that a lot out of Dwayne when he gets going, when he's confident. He's just in a zone that's hard to describe. But when he's in it, he's in it. He hasn't quite gotten there yet, obviously. I think he'll get there."