- The Washington Times - Monday, August 24, 2009

Six incompletions in seven attempts, including two errant deep passes and a misfire over the middle, usually don’t endear a starting quarterback to his coach. But Jim Zorn overlooked the numbers to praise parts of Jason Campbell’s 19-snap performance in the Washington Redskins’ victory over Pittsburgh on Saturday night.

Campbell is 4-for-13 for 48 yards halfway through the preseason. That’s not necessarily cause for alarm, but neither is it reason to think the Redskins’ passing game will be humming in time for the season opener Sept. 13 against the New York Giants.

Following a review of the Redskins-Steelers tape Sunday morning, Zorn stuck with his view that Campbell made good decisions, even if they didn’t produce more than a field goal.

“I look and see 1-for-7 and all that kind of stuff, but Jason did a nice job getting us into the right play,” Zorn said. “He had several good audibles, and I just have to get him more [playing] time.”

The goal for the first-team offense in general and Campbell in particular is succinct: Score a touchdown. The unit is expected to play at least the first half Friday night against New England.

Through two games, Campbell has played five drives: punt, punt, field goal, punt and punt. The Redskins have totaled 109 yards, eight first downs and three points.

Zorn isn’t concerned that Campbell’s confidence is decreasing.

“Once he sees what happened, I think his psyche should be pretty good,” Zorn said. “He has challenges ahead of him for completing the pass when it’s there and things like that, but that’s part of what we’re doing in our preseason, trying to get him honed up so he’s perfect.”

Part of that process is opening the playbook each week, and against Pittsburgh that included trying to stretch the field. Campbell’s seven attempts traveled 48, 44, 13, 10 and 3 yards; two landed behind the line of scrimmage.

“As a quarterback, you like to get into a rhythm, get completions and feel like you’re in the flow of the game,” he said. “[Saturday] we wanted to take a different approach, and we wanted to run some things to see how we can improve and see what we can work on and how it can help us on offense.”

Zorn opened the game with a deep post to Malcolm Kelly, who got a step on Steelers safeties Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark. But Campbell’s pass was underthrown and nearly intercepted.

“One thing I was impressed with was his speed,” Campbell said of Kelly. “I didn’t know he was that fast. When I let it go, I thought I would have hit him in stride. I wish I could have thrown it one to two yards further.”

Said Zorn: “I heard him say that, and we always teach that the receiver picks his angle and you have to throw it to the receiver. I liked the effort; I would like more accuracy.”

On second down, Zorn called a screen pass to Clinton Portis, but he got caught up in traffic and Campbell threw it away.

The Redskins’ initial third-down play featured the only pass Zorn had a problem with. In a great matchup for the Redskins, Santana Moss ran a crossing pattern and was covered by defensive end Brett Keisel. Moss was beyond the first-down marker, but Campbell threw high to negate what would have been a 13-yard completion.

“He should have pulled that [throw] down and had an easy completion,” Zorn said. “But he’ll see what the problem was.”

The Redskins’ drive was kept alive by a fake punt, and Campbell’s only competition - 10 yards to Chris Cooley - helped set up a field goal.

Zorn continued his aggressiveness on the second drive. On first down from the Washington 11, Campbell threw long down the left sideline to Moss. But Campbell’s pass went to Moss’ outside shoulder, not the open inside shoulder.

“We have to communicate better,” Zorn said.

Campbell’s last pass was also a miscommunication; he thought he was leading tight end Fred Davis, only to have Davis cut off his route.

Campbell took solace that trying to hit deep passes softened up the Steelers’ defensive front, allowing Portis to average 5.2 yards on five carries.

“We would like to complete them, but at the same time it does more for us than just putting up yards in the stat book,” Campbell said. “It helps out with the running game because it gets that extra man out of the box.”

The Redskins aren’t the only team struggling offensively. Arizona also has one touchdown in two games, and the Patriots were limited to six points in a loss to Cincinnati. Zorn was asked whether it will be a big deal if the first-team offense goes without a touchdown again this week.

“It matters,” he said. “It mattered [Saturday]. To be down there at the 2-yard line after driving that far - we’re looking to finish. When we went back to look at it, you go, ‘If only…’ There were a couple of things blocking in there we can improve on, and we’ll get it done.”

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