- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Jason Campbell couldn’t help himself.

As the Washington Redskins‘ season dissolved after a 6-2 start and the offense continued to sputter, the quarterback overheard the chatter: His competency - and future with the team - was in question.

“Everybody wants to talk about benching me and throwing me out the window, but there are only a couple of plays that I want back,” he said Tuesday. “It’s a tough city. When things are going great, people want to put you on a pedestal. When things go bad, they want to throw you under and remove you. But I’ve been through this before at Auburn, and I don’t let that stuff distract me.”

One gigantic distraction was removed Monday when executive vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato said on his radio show that coach Jim Zorn will return next year. But another potential distraction is looming.

Do the Redskins extend Campbell’s contract this offseason? Does Campbell need a strong start in 2009 to begin negotiations? Do the Redskins gamble and wait until after next year to talk with Campbell, who will be a free agent?

Eight weeks ago, the workings of a long-term relationship seemed a foregone conclusion. The Redskins were 6-2, and Campbell had thrown eight touchdowns and no interceptions and had a 100.5 passer rating.

But his second half - four touchdowns, six interceptions, 69.1 rating - tabled the extension buzz.

“The second half, we’ve tried to do everything we can to win some games, but it hasn’t been easy for us,” Campbell said. “We’ve faced defenses that have caused a lot of different problems in a lot of different areas.”

Zorn has said Campbell “isn’t totally failing” and remains confident a second year in the West Coast offense will bring a spike in Campbell’s performance.

“Each coach has his own little niche in it, but the system is sound. And then as we get to know it better, we’ll play faster and we won’t be as frustrated because guys will immediately know what we’re asking them to do,” Zorn said. “Jason won’t be as frustrated as he sees this thing evolve.”

Campbell has had to overcome many obstacles to help the Redskins to an 8-7 record:

cAnother new passing system.

cA banged-up running back who has one 100-yard game in the past eight weeks.

cAn offensive line without both starting tackles.

cA tight end who often attracts two defenders.

cOnly one receiver who can get open consistently.

cBackup receivers who are rookies and missed big chunks of training camp.

“I think he’s doing a great job,” said offensive assistant Chris Meidt, who works with the quarterbacks. “You have to take everything in a big picture context.”

Two plays in Sunday’s win against Philadelphia showed why Campbell seems to be the Redskins’ long-term answer at quarterback.

Early in the second quarter, the Redskins faced third-and-4 from their 20. The Eagles rushed four. At the snap, Darren Howard used a swim move to get past Pete Kendall. Campbell looked right for his first option. Nothing. He looked left and threw a bullet to second-option Santana Moss for a 12-yard completion. Just as Campbell released, the crown of Howard’s helmet hit Campbell in the face mask, planting him in the turf. It all happened in two seconds.

In the fourth quarter, the Redskins faced third-and-13 from their 28. The Eagles rushed three and then two late blitzers. Campbell slid around the pocket, Stephon Heyer picked up a late rusher and Campbell ran for a 19-yard gain. The Redskins still punted, but the Eagles started their next drive on their 3-yard line.

“He was decisive in moving and going,” Meidt said. “He didn’t stand there, look and say, ‘Maybe another guy is open.’”

The offense was humming in September and October because of Clinton Portis’ success in the running game, which allowed for manageable second- and third-down situations and the shorter passes that are West Coast staples. But Portis’ injuries decreased his output. The Redskins are 27th in first-down production (4.92 yards a snap) and 26th on third down. In their past five losses, the offense converted only 19 of 70 third-down chances.

Third-and-long means being predictable; passing is pretty much the only option. A four-man rush has been effective against the Redskins, allowing defenses to play coverage downfield and allow the underneath throws that boost completion percentage but don’t extend drives. The Redskins’ 19 pass plays of 25 or more yards are tied for 21st in the NFL.

During the Redskins’ four-game winning streak (Weeks 2-5), Campbell threw only five passes that traveled 25 or more yards, completing three for gains of 67, 28 and 53 yards. Defenses adjusted, making sure a safety downfield accounted for Moss. In the past seven games, Campbell is 0-for-10 with one interception on passes that traveled 25 or more yards.

“He’s still been pretty efficient because he’s not throwing it up [for grabs],” Meidt said. “He’s missed some guys, missed some reads, missed some protections, but he’s been consistent in terms of making good choices.”

A key for the Redskins could be establishing a second downfield threat to go with Moss.

“Anytime you can put guys on the field that can be a weapon and defenses honor it and respect it, it makes a difference in your game plan,” Campbell said.

Zorn admitted that Campbell’s play has leveled off, but he maintains that progress has been made.

“He’s grown by leaps and bounds,” he said. “Has there been some plateauing? There might have been, but we’re going to continue to push and try to elevate his game until there’s more.”

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide