- The Washington Times - Monday, September 14, 2009

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. | Year two of the Jim Zorn era started for the Washington Redskins in the same way as year one, a road loss to the New York Giants. A few of the lingering questions from the disappointing 2008 season looked familiar, too.

But some new issues for the Redskins and their coach also appeared in Sunday’s 23-17 defeat, in what could be their last visit to Giants Stadium.

Washington quarterback Jason Campbell, whom the club twice tried to replace during the offseason, again posted solid numbers, as he did in most games last year. But he also failed to lead the offense into the end zone until the Redskins’ last drive. Washington’s first touchdown came on a trick play; then, with 1:30 remaining, Campbell found Chris Cooley on a 17-yard scoring pass.

Campbell, whose abilities were questioned when the club tried to acquire veteran Jay Cutler and then draft Mark Sanchez during the off-season, completed 19 of 26 passes for 211 yards, one touchdown and an interception - not bad. But Campbell had to withstand significant pressure, again, and the offense sputtered as Santana Moss, the Redskins’ top pass-catcher, had just two receptions for 6 yards.

The most defining and damaging play, however, happened when Osi Umenyiora, the Giants’ All-Pro defensive end who missed all of last season with a knee injury, stripped the ball from Campbell, recovered and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown to give New York a 17-0 lead with 2:11 left in the first half.

The Giants also took away the deep pass but, said Zorn afterward of his quarterback, “He’s got to get rid of the ball better.”

Campbell disagreed. “Everyone says I held on to the ball too long, so I guess I’m supposed to throw it into coverage,” he said sardonically.

Yet Campbell and the offense remain a work in progress. The defense, fourth in the league last season, was supposed to be ready-made, especially with the additions of All-Pro free agent tackle Albert Haynesworth and rookie linebacker Brian Orakpo, the 13th pick in the draft.

Both of their names were called infrequently as the Giants gained 223 first-half yards en route to their 17-point lead and controlled the early clock. New York led only 3-0 after the first quarter but held the ball for 12:11 and ran 21 plays to four for Washington. The Giants during the game converted nearly 50 percent (6 of 13) of their third-down opportunities.

The Redskins’ defense played better in the second half. But the Giants, who have dealt with questions of their own on the quality of their receivers, still put together drives of 44 and 76 yards that ended in field goals and kept the Redskins at a safe distance.

Giants quarterback Eli Manning was sacked once, but for much of the game he had enough time in the pocket to shoot a commercial with his brother, Peyton. And when Manning threw, his receivers - seven different ones - often were open. “Eli was very good with some of the things he did,” Zorn said.

“We didn’t play well at all,” said cornerback DeAngelo Hall, one of three Redskins who missed tackles on the Giants’ only offensive touchdown, a 30-yard catch-and-run play by wide receiver Mario Manningham early in the second quarter. “We didn’t make the plays. We made too many mistakes, and they capitalized on all of them.”

One such mistake was a personal-foul penalty on safety LaRon Landry that helped set up a Giants’ first down on the Redskins’ 12 early in the second quarter. But Washington’s defense rose up, stopping bullish running back Brandon Jacobs on third-and-1 and again on fourth-and-1.

“We did a lot of good things, but we’re still not there,” said Haynesworth, who was frequently rested and briefly shaken up. “I don’t think we’ve jelled as a defense. … Once I figure it out, I’ll let you guys know.”

Zorn, who might be on a tight leash as far as his job security is concerned, said the timing and “discipline” need to improve, but he saw the overall picture in a positive light.

“I can tell you we have a very good football team,” he said after the loss. “I was very impressed with some of the things that happened on the field.”

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