By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
It has been said that a young quarterback's best friend is his tight end, an adage Jason Campbell can understand after his first NFL start. Both of Campbell's touchdown passes in the Redskins' loss Sunday at Tampa Bay were to tight ends, with each requiring the receiver to make something happen on his own around the goal line.
Starting tight end Chris Cooley has endeared himself to Campbell as well as the other two Redskins starters the last three seasons -- Mark Brunell and Patrick Ramsey -- with his sure hands and knack for finding a seam in a defense. For Cooley, it was nothing new, as he has caught touchdowns in four of the past five games and has been the only consistent red-zone passing option all season for an offense that has been surprisingly erratic.
Campbell said he already has a strong trust and appreciation for Cooley's game after watching from the sideline for 1 1/2 seasons, and early in the second half Sunday they connected for Campbell's first NFL score. The play was designed with fullback Mike Sellers as the primary option, but teams have become more accustomed to Sellers emerging around the goal line in recent years; as he ran toward the near sideline, the Buccaneers' coverage was strong.
Campbell was drifting to his right, buying time and remaining patient in hopes that another teammate would get open. His second option was to run for the touchdown himself, but with so many Buccaneers nearby, there was no chance of getting in. Cooley, meantime, was in heavy pursuit after beginning the play on the opposite side of the field.
Cooley charged across the field to the right corner, slipped between two Tampa Bay players and dropped low to catch the falling pass a few feet over the goal line. The play gave the Redskins a brief 10-3 lead and was the first touchdown the team had scored in the third quarter in six weeks.
"Cooley is a real tough guy, like on that touchdown catch," Campbell said. "He was a guy that was kind of out of the picture, but he worked his way all the way back down to the football to get open and make a touchdown catch. You like those things, and our receivers did a good job when I was scrambling of coming back to me and trying to come back to the football. So I try to get the ball in to those guys, because you know they can make plays for you."
Later, Campbell whipped a touchdown pass to reserve tight end Todd Yoder, playing with Christian Fauria placed on injured reserve, in the back of the end zone late in that game. On the play, Campbell again stayed calm while it developed, and he put plenty of zip on the ball.Truly Offensive Numbers
The Redskins rank 18th in the league in total offense and 20th in points scored. Coaches have decried the lack of offensive plays this season, which has been exacerbated by the long drives the defense surrenders, as well as the offense's weak third-down production (19th in conversion percentage) and overall lack of first downs (23rd). They have just 18 offensive touchdowns in 10 games. . . . Yoder, who saw regular action in the offense for the first time Sunday, has as many touchdown receptions as high-priced wide receivers Antwaan Randle El and Brandon Lloyd combined. . . . Former Redskins cornerback Walt Harris, now with San Francisco, leads the NFL with six interceptions, twice as many as Washington's entire team.