- The Washington Times - Friday, September 18, 2009

Jason Campbell struggled to find a rhythm throughout most of the first half of Sunday’s opener against the New York Giants. Then the Washington Redskins quarterback received an extended opportunity to line up in the shotgun just before halftime.

Against a six-man rush, Campbell calmly dropped back, surveyed the field and fired a 10-yard dart that Antwaan Randle El turned into a 35-yard reception. That gain set up punter Hunter Smith’s 8-yard touchdown run on a fake field goal, the Redskins’ first points.

Even though it was in a hurry-up offense, the throw and the fact that Campbell was 14-for-17 for 155 yards and his only touchdown in the formation bring up a question: Why isn’t coach Jim Zorn using it more often in regular situations?

Although the Redskins are considering using Campbell in the shotgun more often Sunday against St. Louis, a team source said Wednesday’s practice included only the basic third-down shotgun work.

“He plays well in the gun, and I like the mix,” Zorn said. “I think we’re a good gun team, and I think we’re a good play-action team.”

Campbell said he has talked to Zorn about utilizing the shotgun but agreed with the coach’s assertion that using it more eliminates the element of surprise.

“Sometimes I just feel more comfortable [in the shotgun],” Campbell said. “But we don’t have to be in gun the whole time - especially with the way we run our offense.”

Last year, Campbell was 100-for-154 for 1,104 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions in the shotgun. Against the Giants, his passer rating under center was 34.7 - and 124.3 in the shotgun.

The Redskins want to be a run-first team, using fullback Mike Sellers to create holes for Clinton Portis. If they’re in the shotgun, it limits Campbell’s handoffs to draws and tosses and would make it difficult for Sellers to get across the formation to lead Portis.

Zorn said the Redskins can’t go shotgun regularly on first or second down “if we want to be deceptive on third down. You actually expand your passing game, but you’re telling the other team, ‘Hey, we’re throwing the ball,’ and you allow them to blitz in different situations.”

In nonhurry-up situations against the Giants, Zorn used the shotgun on second down only once - a 6-yard completion by Campbell. Even when the Redskins fell behind 17-0 and saw their running game stall, Campbell remained under center.

“Sometimes you want to be under center because it gives the threat of a run even though you’re in a passing situation,” Campbell said.

While acknowledging Campbell looked comfortable in the shotgun, Zorn said any statistical analysis is misleading because, in a two-minute drill, defenses play zone and don’t blitz as much.

“You have to qualify it by the time of the game,” he said.

Dividing up the numbers into regular shotgun, hurry-up shotgun and under center, Campbell’s numbers against the Giants were much better in the shotgun.

Regular shotgun: 6-for-8 for 43 yards (87.0 rating).

Hurry-up shotgun: 8-for-9 for 112 yards and one touchdown (155.6 rating).

Under center: 5-for-9 for 56 yards and one interception (34.7 rating).

Last year, Campbell’s passer rating didn’t change much in any of the three scenarios - they were 85.9, 77.1 and 85.2.

Feeling more comfortable in the passing game, Campbell seems better suited for the shotgun. Instead of wondering whether he has the right play called, he can survey the defense before the snap and get a better idea of what the secondary is up to.

“You can see things more clearly when you’re away from the line, especially if there are a lot of guys up front moving around,” he said.

Assessing the coverage and blitz looks is the chief advantage of being in the shotgun.

“It’s a little better depth perception, whereas when you’re on the line it looks a little flat and crowded,” offensive assistant Chris Meidt said. “The other advantages are that you’re already away from any initial blitz and you’re away from the line pushing back. You have a little bit more room to operate.”

Besides limiting the run game, the other drawback to the shotgun is that Campbell has to catch the snap.

Whichever method the Redskins use, Campbell wants to see more big plays against the Rams. Last week, only one of Campbell’s 26 pass attempts traveled farther than 17 yards - a 57-yard incompletion to Santana Moss. The Redskins’ longest pass plays came on Randle El’s 35-yard gain and a shovel pass that Ladell Betts turned into 23 yards.

“It just energizes a team,” Campbell said. “You look at the Patriots and when they made a couple big plays [against Buffalo on Monday night], you could see the energy with the entire team and the whole stadium.

“It doesn’t have to be a deep throw - it can be a short throw that goes for a long gain.”

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