Campbell’s ‘rhythm’ lacking against Jets

For the opening two exhibition games of the Jim Zorn era, Jason Campbell piloted his new offense with efficiency and excellence.

Game No. 3, however, proved to be the first bit of adversity for the Washington Redskins quarterback in the new offense. Campbell on Saturday night overthrew receivers, hesitated and didn’t make attempts his coach wanted him to and generally looked uncomfortable in the pocket at times.

“He still hesitated a couple of times, and the rhythm was a little off for him,” Zorn said. “It was just a hesitation, and he didn’t need to. He wasn’t sure of the very first thing he wanted to do, and I’ve got to get him to help himself with his gut feel. He had the right decision at first, but he just wanted it to be better, and he didn’t need to.”

Campbell finished his two series with four completions in 10 attempts for 28 yards - a far cry from his 80 percent success rate of the first two games. He also failed to get the team into the end zone for the first time.

One play on the Redskins’ second drive exemplified Zorn’s assessment of Campbell’s performance. Late in the first quarter, an outside receiver broke open for what the coach deemed a sure touchdown, but instead Campbell opted to try for tight end Chris Cooley in the middle of the field. His throw sailed out of reach in the end zone.

A new wrinkle for Campbell and the Redskins’ offense was the New York Jets’ defensive strategy. After two weeks of games against teams (Indianapolis and Buffalo) that deploy 4-3 defenses, the Jets were Washington’s first encounter with the 3-4 alignment.

As with most teams that use the 3-4, the Jets did plenty of blitzing from various places.

“This was a different defense, a different scheme, a different philosophy,” Zorn said. “They really came after us. We made some great decisions with some throws because nobody panicked. We knew we were hot, and we were very decisive with those throws in hot situations.”

Campbell did lead his team to a field goal on the second drive, but struggles in the red zone were a theme throughout the night. Twice the team marched the ball inside the 20, but the drives stalled, and they settled for field goals. Quarterback Derek Devine also short-circuited a potential scoring drive by throwing an interception near the goal line.

“We were trying some new things in the red zone, trying to take some shots, trying out different personnel in certain situations like three or four receivers against the 3-4 defense,” Campbell said. “It’s time to try out a lot of things. I wish we could’ve gotten seven [points], but I was excited that we’re able to sustain drives. That’s the second week in a row we’ve been able to do it.”

While Campbell experienced his first struggles of the preseason, three running backs found success against New York’s aggressive scheme. As a team, the Redskins finished with 181 yards on 22 carries - more than 8 yards an attempt.

Part of that figure is inflated by Rock Cartwright’s 73-yard scamper, but both starter Ladell Betts and camp surprise Marcus Mason had solid numbers.

“I like the way the team is going,” Redskins guard Randy Thomas said. “The first couple of series we made some plays, but we hurt ourselves here and there. We learned from that. You can’t always perform the way we did the last couple of games.”

Betts had his second straight solid game. He finished with 34 yards on six carries, including a 10-yard run on third down to keep the first scoring drive alive. He did leave the game with a knee injury after it buckled on him at the end of that drive, but Zorn said Sunday it isn’t serious, though he could miss a few days of practice as a precaution.

Mason continued his strong camp with another quality performance. He racked up 55 yards on nine attempts and pushed his NFL preseason-leading total to 233 yards.

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