- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 29, 2009

For five-plus years, anybody looking for optimistic analysis even in the hardest of times for the Washington Redskins could enter the locker room, take a hard left turn and stop at Phillip Daniels’ cubicle.

Regardless of the situation, Daniels could cite reasons for a potential turnaround and examples of what the Redskins were doing well.

But not last week. The veteran defensive end had nothing, which meant he had everything.

“When you’re 3-7, you really don’t take pride in anything you’re doing,” said Daniels, who is in line to play in his 182nd game Sunday when the Redskins visit Philadelphia. “When you’re 3-7, nothing’s good.”

When you’re 3-7, the things a team does well (pressure the quarterback, stop the pass and cover kickoffs) are covered up by the things it doesn’t do well (stop the run, score points and make big plays).

And when you’re 3-7, the impact of starting a sixth different offensive line, third running back and seeing both big-money defensive players (Albert Haynesworth and DeAngelo Hall) potentially out because of injury doesn’t produce much hope.

All is not completely lost, though. Daniels couldn’t help himself and turned positive.

“At the same time, we’ve got to keep chugging along and hopefully finish this thing off strong,” he said.

Said coach Jim Zorn: “There are still enough guys. We’ll try to utilize the guys we have.”

The Redskins have a few factors working in their favor.

First-half hope

The Redskins are still dreadful in the opening two quarters, having been outscored 59-17 in the first and 61-36 in the second. But since the embarrassment in Atlanta three weeks ago (a 24-3 deficit at halftime), the Redskins have given themselves a chance.

In the victory against Denver, the Redskins never trailed by more than one score and trailed 17-14 at halftime. Last week in Dallas, they led 3-0 entering the second half.

The lack of a deficit has allowed both sides to stick with their game plans.

“Honestly, it’s just execution,” offensive coordinator Sherman Smith said. “It always has been. We didn’t deliberately say, ‘Let’s do this and that.’ We know we have to try and establish the run game because, if we get behind, we can’t get into a throwing game because of protection issues.”

Said safety Reed Doughty: “When we get down two scores, teams can hammer us with the run and use the clock.”

Harassing the quarterback

By staying in the game, the Redskins can use rookie Brian Orakpo as a pass rusher more often. If Washington gets behind early, Orakpo would stay as a strongside linebacker because the Redskins need bigger bodies to hold up against the run.

The Redskins have four takeaways and four sacks in the past two games, and they rank fourth in the league in sacks per pass play.

“We want to get into a situation where [Orakpo] can put his hand down, rush the passer and see what happens,” Doughty said.

Although the Redskins will never be blitz-happy, they rank first against the pass by playing a bend-but-don’t-break scheme. Keeping plays in front of the defensive backs and tackling well are the keys.

“We try to get an offense out of their comfort zone in the run, force the quarterback to throw it and then put pressure on him,” Zorn said. “We were a little more of a striking defense earlier in the season.”

In the teams’ first meeting, Philadelphia gained 124 of its 262 yards on two long DeSean Jackson touchdowns. The Eagles leaned on their defense to preserve the 27-17 win.

“Their scheme is not as complicated as others, especially in their base,” Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. “What happens is that when you do it that way, you’re very good at what you do, and there are very few mistakes.”

Campbell’s confidence

Jason Campbell is developing more trust in second-year players Devin Thomas, Malcolm Kelly and Fred Davis and a better sense of what to do when the pressure does and doesn’t come.

Since Zorn was stripped of the playcalling, Campbell has worn a large wristband with the plays listed. Campbell said that has contributed to a faster tempo getting to the line of scrimmage - a credit to offensive assistant Chris Meidt, who aids Sherm Lewis with the passing calls.

Campbell in Games 4-6 (Zorn calling the plays): 38-for-61 for 404 yards, three touchdowns, four interceptions and a 78.9 rating.

Campbell in Games 7-10 (community playcalling): 85-for-128 for 929 yards, four touchdowns, three interceptions and a 95.6 rating.

“We can’t be afraid to make plays and try and play at a high level,” Campbell said. “Early in the game, if things get a little rough, we can’t get frustrated. We just have to stay on course.”

While there are holes all over the roster because of injuries (32 players have at least one start) and personnel decisions, the Redskins know the playoffs are out of the equation - but a competitive finish isn’t.

“There’s a little less star factor on offense because nobody has stepped out there and said, ‘I’m going to lead the division in rushing. I’m going to lead the division in passing or even receiving,’ ” Zorn said. “I see how that would be a question of identity. But we’re still trying to win on defense and drive the ball down on the field with whoever we have on offense.”

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