- The Washington Times - Monday, December 11, 2006

Jason Campbell could have hung his head yesterday.

The Washington Redskins trailed by 11 points shortly into the second quarter, largely because the Philadelphia Eagles intercepted two of the young quarterback’s first nine passes.

The first interception came on a foolish throw by Campbell into traffic from his own 41-yard line. The second, on the Redskins’ next possession, came on a pass that caromed into the hands of Eagles safety Michael Lewis, who returned it 84 yards for a touchdown.

Campbell dropped back three times on the next two series, getting sacked once and throwing two incompletions as the Redskins fell even further behind. But the second-year quarterback from Auburn persevered. The Redskins outscored the playoff-contending Eagles 16-0 the rest of the way but fell short and lost 21-19.

“It’s a learning experience, and it’s something Jason gains from,” Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said. “What I was most proud of is … he certainly had a tough first half, but he came back, laid it on the line. That says a lot about him.”

During the final 35 minutes, Campbell completed a solid 10 of 16 passes for 120 yards and a touchdown and gained 38 yards on four scrambles.

“I learned a lot from this game,” Campbell said. “I grew a lot. My teammates, I probably earned a lot of respect from them. … Everyone’s looking at you when things aren’t going right. They’re looking to see how you’re going to respond. Are you a guy that’s going to get down, go in the tank and not continue to keep fighting? Or are you going to be a guy that’s going to keep fighting until the end.

“I just want them to understand that I’m a guy who’s going to compete with them through thick and thin.”

That message got through to Campbell’s offensive mates, all of whom are his seniors.

“Jason showed a lot of composure,” running back Ladell Betts said. “As our offensive leader, his poise resonated through to us and allowed us to not hang our heads.”

Guard Randy Thomas said Campbell “did a great job keeping his cool and looking like a veteran out there, standing in the pocket to make throws and then leaving the pocket to run for yards.”

Receiver Brandon Lloyd said Campbell took another step toward becoming a legitimate NFL starting quarterback.

“Jason’s ability to bounce back is rare for someone of his age,” Lloyd said. “… He forgets pretty quickly, and that’s one thing you really have to have out there — especially at quarterback. I’ve said all along just because Jason’s quiet doesn’t mean he’s not confident. He trusts his arm to make throws that [some] quarterbacks wouldn’t be willing to make.”

One of those throws put the Redskins back in the game in the third quarter.

Campbell hit receiver Antwaan Randle El in stride, a step ahead of standout Eagles cornerback Sheldon Brown in the left corner of the end zone, with a beautiful 34-yard touchdown pass with 30 seconds left in the quarter.

That touchdown made the score 21-16 and completed a nine-play, 90-yard drive on which Campbell connected with Randle El and Chris Cooley on third-down throws.

“In practice, we work on throwing those deep balls with timing,” Campbell said. “Antwaan did a good job of getting past his man and getting down the field. My job is to make sure he has the opportunity to make a play.”

The pressure was on Campbell again when the Redskins faced third-and-10 at the Philadelphia 18, still trailing 21-16.

Quickly seeing that his receivers were covered and that the right side of the field was open, he took off and picked up 15 yards. The Redskins settled for a field goal anyway, but Campbell’s smart decision pleased associate head coach Al Saunders, the man who calls the plays.

“Jason keeps getting better at the things we want him to, mechanics, decision-making,” Saunders said. “He has to learn through playing the game. The important thing is that he comes back from negative things.”

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