Taking their shots

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Joe Gibbs wants his quarterback to throw an accurate deep ball.

“That’s the most important thing he can do for your team,” he said.

Al Saunders wants his quarterback willing to take chances downfield.

“You’d rather have an aggressive quarterback you have to [rein in],” he said.

And Jason Campbell wants to be a quarterback who takes his drop, sets his feet and throws the bomb.

“It’s a low percentage throw but you have to take those shots,” he said.

Gibbs, Saunders and Campbell all want the Washington Redskins offense to be physically dominating in the run game, but also a team that makes opposing safeties think twice about helping in run support.

Five starts into Campbell’s career, the offense continues to take shape, and last week against New Orleans, the Redskins aired it out.

Campbell attempted seven passes that traveled 20 or more yards. Although he completed only one of the throws — a 31-yard touchdown to Santana Moss — the fact that the Redskins are beginning to employ more vertical plays represents a philosophical shift from the days of Mark Brunell.

“If it works, it makes sure you’re not one dimensional,” Campbell said. “That’s what will make us a great offense. It’s tough to do each week but it’s good to see us doing it well.”

Campbell has 10 pass plays of 20-plus yards, including five in the last two games. Helping the deep-ball game is the improvement on the ground. Clinton Portis was banged up during Brunell’s tenure and the Redskins averaged 115.8 yards rushing a game. Thanks to Ladell Betts’ emergence, that average has climbed to 136.6 yards a game.

“The shots down field are directly correlated to what we’ve been doing in the run game,” center Casey Rabach said. “We’ve been running it pretty well and that has forced teams to bring that eighth or ninth player into the box. That opens up the passing game and especially the deep throws.”

And it makes defenses respect the play-action fakes. Campbell used play action seven times against the Saints, including on Moss’ touchdown.

A perfect example of what the fake can do came on a 23-yard completion to tight end Chris Cooley. Campbell moved to his left and faked the handoff to Betts, which lured Saints middle linebacker Mark Simoneau in that direction. Cooley caught the ball in stride for the first down.

“On some of the play actions we ran, I could see the safeties starting to run up and the linebackers were already playing in tight,” Betts said.

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