Friday, May 11, 2007

Jason Campbell has been such a frequent presence at Redskin Park this offseason Redskins associate head coach Al Saunders joked that Washington’s first-year starting quarterback has become almost like his son.

“Every time I look over my shoulder, Jason’s here,” said Saunders, who worked with Campbell three hours a day, three days a week leading up to the players’ first days back on the field this week. “He’s making progress. He’s a wonderful kid to work with. He’s extremely bright and has worked extremely hard on his techniques and fundamentals [with] a lot of film work, a lot of board work and a lot of understanding of what we are doing from a schematic standpoint.”

And as coach Joe Gibbs and Campbell’s teammates noted, the quarterback looked sharper and more confident in practice, whether it was squeezing a short pass into tight end Chris Cooley or deciding to take off and run when no one was open. The latter decision earned Campbell an emphatic fist bump and “outstanding, outstanding” from Saunders.

“In the offseason, you try to put in a lot of work to help put yourself in position to be successful,” Campbell said. “You’re able to go through more of your progressions than you probably did a year ago because of the time and effort that you put in studying the plays. Coach Saunders and [quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor] have done a great job of teaching me all the plays.”

With that knowledge of the offense and smoother fundamentals, Campbell is quicker executing plays and getting rid of the ball than he was while completing 53.1 percent of his passes for 1,297 yards, 10 touchdowns and six interceptions last season. The Redskins were 2-5 in Campbell’s starts as he posted a 76.5 passer rating.

“I don’t know if anyone has worked harder than Jason,” Gibbs said. “He’s paid a price this offseason. There are a lot of places he could have been running around, but he’s been here working on football. It’s made a difference. He’s quicker. He’s much more confident.”

Campbell said that quickness begins with foot speed.

“It’s getting back there and trying to set up a lot quicker and getting the ball out of my hand a lot quicker,” Campbell said. “[And] knowing where you’re going with the ball more, shortening my motion. The coaches are trying to make things easier for me so I can have the opportunity to go through my progressions without being in a rush.”

The laid-back Campbell isn’t one to rush anything, but the Redskins can’t wait for him to show his improvement when it counts.

“From last year’s OTAs to this year, it’s night and day with Jason,” center Casey Rabach said.

Campbell has accepted receiver Santana Moss’ invitation to work together in Miami after next month’s minicamp. Receiver Antwaan Randle El will join them, too.

“We’re light years ahead of where we were last year with Jason,” Moss said. “You have to understand last year when he came in and started throwing to [the regulars] late in the season we had had no reps with him. We didn’t have the timing we wanted and we were trying to force him to do things that any quarterback would struggle doing. What Jason has done is make a lot of progress to where we want to go.”

Offensive tackle Jon Jansen, who has blocked for 14 Redskins quarterbacks, expects big things from Campbell, whom he said has all the tools. So does running back Clinton Portis, who has yet to play with the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Auburn product because he went on injured reserve before Campbell made his first start.

“Jason’s the perfect weapon to lead us,” Portis said. “It’s just up to him to do it.”

Notes — Fullback Nehemiah Broughton tore an ACL on Tuesday and is expected to be placed on season-ending injured reserve. …

Moss sat out the team portion after straining a groin during Wednesday’s practice. Tight end Todd Yoder was held out with a skin infection but is expected to return on Tuesday. Portis, safety Pierson Prioleau, linebacker Marcus Washington, defensive end Phillip Daniels and quarterback Mark Brunell all took limited or no work.

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