Campbell continues evolution

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DETROIT

He hadn’t disappeared from the Washington Redskins’ offense. No quarterback ever can do that without getting benched. But for three weeks, Jason Campbell had been really quiet, averaging just 183 passing yards and throwing just one touchdown as the Redskins rode NFL rushing leader Clinton Portis to a 5-2 record.

But with Portis corralled for most of the game Sunday at Ford Field, Campbell reasserted himself and had one of his finest days as a pro, completing 23 of 28 passes (a career-high 82.1 percent) for a season-high 328 yards.

“Coach [Jim Zorn] does a good job of taking what the defense gives us,” Campbell said modestly. “If it’s the passing game, go with it. If it’s the running game, go with that.”

It wasn’t quite so simple. Campbell lost two fumbles while being sacked, but he also hung in there against blitzing safety Ramzee Robinson and fired the game-changing 50-yard touchdown to receiver Santana Moss that put the Redskins ahead to stay late in the third quarter en route to a 25-17 victory over the winless Detroit Lions.

“A heroic play and throw by Jason,” Zorn raved. “He had to make an avoid move and then have the sense not to bolt but to know that … Santana beat his guy.”

Campbell beat the coverage of the Lions’ last-ranked defense from the opening snap. He completed his first 10 passes and only missed the 11th because Moss couldn’t keep his feet in bounds. The 12th would have been complete if the forceout rule had not been changed in March. Campbell didn’t actually miss a receiver until he overthrew James Thrash with 3:29 left in the first half.

“You get those first couple completions, you feel like you’re in a groove, in a rhythm. You’re not just standing there watching the game; you’re actually playing the game,” Campbell said. “As a quarterback … it’s completions. It’s not about how far you throw the ball down the field. I got into a rhythm. The receivers got into a rhythm. The offensive line did an outstanding job of giving us the time to get those plays that develop longer.”

Campbell, who will be 27 in December and is in his fourth season and third NFL system, has taken longer to develop than some quarterbacks. But at midseason of his second year as the starter, he has a 100.5 passer rating and has yet to throw an interception. His franchise-record streak has reached 252 passes since December.

“Unbelievable,” tight end Chris Cooley said of the streak. “That’s a huge credit to how smart he is.”

And how unflappable. It’s harder to ruffle Campbell than it is for wind to muss Jimmy Johnson’s hair.

“That’s one of Jason’s best assets,” guard Pete Kendall said of his quarterback’s steadiness and calmness. The Redskins trailed for much of the game while their mistakes, particularly penalties, offset their overwhelming yardage advantage.

Moss said Zorn, a longtime quarterback and quarterbacks coach, has made a big difference for Campbell.

“Jason’s been through a lot with the different offenses,” Moss said. “The situation he’s in now is just great. It almost seems like Coach is playing the game through Jason. He tells him some things, tells him what to be aware of. As a player, you need to be told. You can tell Jason is keyed in and paying attention, and he goes out there and makes those plays. If he gets hot, he’s pretty much unstoppable.”

Most important, Campbell, who came into this year with an 8-12 record, has the surprising Redskins at 6-2 at midseason. They have won at Dallas and Philadelphia, and they’re 5-2 in NFC play. All this despite not having won a game by double digits.

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About the Author
David Elfin

David Elfin

David Elfin has been following Washington-area sports teams since the late 1960s. David began his journalism career at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, the University of Pennsylvania (B.A., history) and Syracuse University (M.S., telecommunications). He wrote for the Bulletin (Philadelphia), the Post-Standard (Syracuse) and The Washington Post before coming to The Washington Times in 1986. He has covered colleges, the Orioles ...

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