Quarterbacks part of backup plan

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Neither Todd Collins nor Colt Brennan threw a pass for the Washington Redskins last season. That’s the plan again this season as long as starting quarterback Jason Campbell stays healthy.

But that doesn’t mean the Redskins’ failed attempts last month to replace Campbell with Jay Cutler or Mark Sanchez didn’t affect the two backups.

Collins, a 37-year-old with a year left on his contract, and Brennan, a 25-year-old drafted in the sixth round last year, can’t help but wonder what management’s lack of faith in Campbell means for them.

If Campbell, whose contract expires next winter, doesn’t return, either Collins or Brennan would be the early favorite to start in 2010 given a lack of quality free agents and how few rookie passers are ready to be NFL regulars.

“[Cutler has] already played for a couple of years, and they would have committed a lot [of money] to him,” Brennan said. “It was going to set me back. I know Mark; we grew up in Orange County together. Even if they gave him a big check, I have a year in this offense under my belt, and we would’ve competed. If anything, you can look at it as a positive and have it push you that much more.”

An afterthought for a decade until he replaced the injured Campbell in December 2007 and led the Redskins to the playoffs, Collins took a more businesslike approach to this situation.

“Obviously it was harder on Jason, but you do think, ‘Where do I fit in?,’ ” Collins said. “But I’ve kind of learned not to worry too much until something happens. I’m in a lot better condition than I was last year, when I had some nagging stuff in my shoulder. … And it’s so much better in the second year in [coach Jim Zorn’s West Coast] offense, seeing the big picture and how everything fits.”

Zorn confirmed that Collins still holds the No. 2 job, but third-stringer Brennan played well in the preseason last year and is looking to make bigger strides this season.

“I can already feel this gigantic difference from the quarterback I was out here last year to the quarterback I am now,” Brennan said. “Not only because I’m healthy but because I’m so much more confident with not only the playbook but the people around me, the coaches and the whole environment. This time last year, I was four or five months after hip surgery. Instead of being 225 pounds and not that mobile, I’m 214 and a much more active quarterback.”

Collins said he wants to play “as long as I can still make the plays,” but he’s on the downside of his career. Brennan is all upside.

“Todd has been working out religiously. He [has embraced] the offense with full passion, and I’m going to get him some time in preseason, but I want to see Colt more,” Zorn said. “I’m still working on his feet. He wants to prance. I tell him, ‘Quit acting like a coyote in a snowfield: Just drive, set, step and throw.’ He’s learning. I’m looking for him to really step up and take charge. He’s taking little steps, but he’s not ready yet.”

Brennan also throws many of his passes sidearm, an approach that works for him but one that Zorn doesn’t think can be effective on certain throws.

“What Coach has really done is try to slowly make it a little bit more orthodox, but he hasn’t taken away what I’m really confident about, and that’s getting the ball from point A to point B,” Brennan said. “Last year I was put to the test: ‘Is this kid an NFL quarterback?’ I think I passed that test. This year, it’s up to me to prove I can move up the depth chart and build towards a future where I can hopefully be a starting quarterback in the NFL.”

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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