- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Washington Redskins open training camp Thursday looking to erase the memory of the 2-6 second half that ruined their once-promising 2008 season.

“I definitely think a lot of guys are going to be looking to see where did we go wrong,” said second-year starting safety Chris Horton, who reported to training camp in Ashburn, Va., on Wednesday along with 78 other players.

The fast start under a first-year coach had the team and its fans thinking playoffs. But Washington seemingly never recovered from a midseason loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers, scuffling to an 8-8 finish and missing the playoffs.

That led to an eventful offseason during which the Redskins twice tried to replace starting quarterback Jason Campbell; cut longtime starters Jon Jansen, Marcus Washington and Shawn Springs; and shelled out more than $70 million in bonuses to free agents Albert Haynesworth, DeAngelo Hall and Derrick Dockery.

The moves should make the defense even stronger than it was last season, when it finished fourth in the NFL. Haynesworth, an All-Pro defensive tackle, and Hall will step right in to starting spots on the unit. Brian Orakpo, the team’s No. 1 draft choice, has yet to sign a contract and won’t be on the field Thursday, but the team expects him to claim the strongside linebacker spot vacated by Washington.

That leaves the offense as the team’s biggest question mark entering training camp as coach Jim Zorn and quarterback Jason Campbell enter their second summer together.

Washington finished 19th in offense during Zorn’s first year. If that ranking doesn’t significantly improve, the coach and his quarterback - whose contract expires after the season - might well be working elsewhere come 2010. Redskins owner Dan Snyder and executive vice president Vinny Cerrato tried and failed to acquire veteran quarterback Jay Cutler and rookie Mark Sanchez to supplant Campbell.

“I don’t know if the contract thing is in [Jason’s] mind,” Zorn said. “I know he’s excited about playing and he’s prepared himself very well. He’s most excited about getting into this second season in the same offense. All the stuff that happened during the offseason motivated him to work hard and kind of set the stage for him to be real enthusiastic about 2009 and what he wants to accomplish.”

Snyder, meanwhile, has a history of churning through coaches during his 10 years owning the Redskins. Should he decide to replace Zorn after the season, he’ll have plenty of candidates to choose from, including five out-of-work Super Bowl winners: Mike Shanahan, Bill Cowher, Jon Gruden, Mike Holmgren and Brian Billick.

Naturally, the coach believes that he and the offense will fare better in 2009.

“I have a genuine excitement about being in my second year,” Zorn said. “I’m a little more aware of who my players are. … The coaches know far more than we did going into training camp last year. We had the opportunity during minicamp and the [organized team activities] to accelerate what we were putting in because of the recall of the year before. All those things make me feel more relaxed and more confident that we’re on the right track.”

With offensive linemen Chris Samuels (triceps), Randy Thomas (neck) and Devin Clark (knee) and rookie fullback Eddie Williams (knee) all able to participate in at least one of the usual two-a-day practices, only Orakpo won’t start camp on time.

But Zorn’s not worried yet even though the rookie is switching from defensive end.

“At some point, I will probably say, ‘I’m concerned,’ but at this point, I’m not,” Zorn said. “We were satisfied with [Orakpo] enough during the [organized team activities] and minicamp that he was a quick learner. If he’s far behind at that position, we’ll put him in on those pass-rushing downs where he can do what he does best. Hopefully, we won’t have to deal with that.”

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