By Howard Bryant
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 24, 2006
MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. -- In the inner sanctum of NFL Films, former all-pro quarterback Ron Jaworski is performing video surgery on Jason Campbell, an intense battery of cuts, freeze-frames and rewinds designed to meticulously dissect the quarterback who now is the Washington Redskins' most important player.
Jaworski sits in front of a large television holding a laser pointer, reviewing the same game film used by all 32 NFL teams. For the next two hours, Jaworski, an analyst for ESPN and its "State Farm NFL Matchup," and NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell, nephew of legendary broadcaster Howard Cosell, will deconstruct all 34 of Campbell's passes from Sunday's 20-17 loss to Tampa Bay, focusing on five key sequences. The session provides a rare glimpse into top-level evaluation and film study that is as illuminating for its exposure of the Redskins' flaws as a team as it is for its study of Campbell.First and 10, Washington 26 13:21, First Quarter
On the Redskins' first play from scrimmage, Campbell fakes to Ladell Betts and throws 53 yards in the air to a streaking Brandon Lloyd; the ball drops through his hands. Jaworski shakes his head. On the first play of the game, Lloyd has left a big gain on the table, but Jaworski likes Campbell's poise.
"The good thing he does here is that he looks down the middle of the field and keeps the safety honest," Jaworski says. "A lot of young guys, if they're throwing the ball there, when the ball is snapped, they stare at him. . . . The term is, 'If the receiver beats the corner, the quarterback's got to beat the safety,' and he did that by keeping him in the center of the field."
The play is perfect, Jaworski says, but Lloyd has blown it.First and 10, Washington 46 3:42, First Quarter
Play-action. Campbell throws to Betts for 14 yards. Checking down to a running back is the habit for which his predecessor, Mark Brunell, was vilified. But Jaworski loves it.
"Exact read, and a good, accurate throw. When I'm talking about quarterbacks, I'm not talking about a guy trying to go 8 for 8," Jaworski says. "I'm talking about what it's going to take to play at a championship level consistently. He makes this throw, and people say, 'Oh, nice throw.'
"To me, this is a great throw. He puts the ball on the outside hip, allows the back to turn up the field and get extra yards. I've seen this with quarterbacks and the ball is behind him. They have to stop. What should be a 10-yard gain becomes a one-yard gain because of the accuracy of the throw."
The coaches have discussed tweaking Campbell's throwing motion. Mechanically, quarterbacks are taught to begin their throwing motion at mid-chest; a big windup that starts under the belt is a red flag. Jaworski notices Campbell throwing consistently at about his belt or hip, which could cost his release critical milliseconds.
"I think he drops it a hair low here, but nothing I'd be overly concerned with," he says. "I played with Randall Cunningham for a few years, and Randall had a real big arc. . . . If you want to look at an elongated delivery, look at [Jacksonville's] Byron Leftwich. . . . This is not a major problem."
Cosell adds, "It's not like he drops it to his knees, like Leftwich."First and 10, Tampa Bay 40 3:12, First Quarter
Trailing 3-0, associate head coach-offense Al Saunders goes for the home run.
"They're going to try for the big play here," Jaworski says. "This is a big-play design. Two-receiver route, eight blocking, and they're going to have it, too."
Campbell uses a play-action fake to Betts. Wide receiver James Thrash runs a square-out to the left, but tight end Chris Cooley is open deep in the right seam. Safety Jermaine Phillips blitzes. Center Casey Rabach slides the wrong way, allowing Phillips a clean shot, but Campbell spins away from the sack and hits Thrash for 15 yards and a first down.
For Jaworski, this is the play of the game. He loves Saunders's game plan, but says the pass protection, particularly tackles Jon Jansen and Chris Samuels, is preventing touchdown opportunities. Jansen, Jaworski says, is "getting pushed backwards more than I've ever seen him," while Cosell considers Samuels "a nice player, but not an anchor over there."
"You've seen two breakdowns in protection that have cost them," says Jaworski, the red laser zeroed on Rabach. "But that's a big-time play. That's a hell of play. You've got the blitz coming in clean, unblocked, off play-action. He turns back. That's really good. You see the arm strength. With all due respect to Mark, he doesn't make this play."Third and Seven, Tampa Bay 22 1:44, First Quarter
The cornerbacks cut off the inside routes. The linebackers creep toward the line. Ronde Barber practically is standing over the nose of the ball. The look is completely different.
Tampa is in an all-out blitz, the first of the game.
"First zero coverage, total blitz. Now they're going to test him," Jaworski says of Campbell. "They're bringing everybody."
Slot receiver Antwaan Randle El sees it and looks at Campbell. He's the hot read. But Campbell freezes on the snap, drifting back five steps. It's over. Barber spins past Betts and gets the first hit. Defensive end Greg Spires finishes him off for the sack.
A yard off the line, Randle El is waiting for the football.
"That one is on the quarterback. The ball has to come out or he's going to get killed. On the third step, that ball has got to be out of his hand," Jaworski says. "It's not going to be pretty. Whatever you have do, jump in the air, but get him the football. And I'll tell you what, [Randle El] is one-on-one with Juran Bolden. I'll take him one-on-one in space any day. There's a good chance he could wheel back outside and score, and there goes your big-play opportunity. I think he panicked there."
The Redskins settle for a field goal.First and 10, Tampa Bay 41 12:10, Third Quarter
A seemingly innocuous play. Campbell throws incomplete to Cooley at the 20. But the laser pointer is focused on Jansen, guard Randy Thomas and fullback Mike Sellers, and Jaworski shows how the Redskins have blown another opportunity for Campbell.
In the far slot, Randle El runs a deep post across the field, 10 yards past Cooley. But the safety in coverage, Phillips, follows Cooley underneath, leaving Randle El wide open in the seam at the 10-yard line.
But at the line of scrimmage, Sellers, Jansen and Thomas allow two Tampa Bay defenders -- Spires and Jon Bradley -- to beat them and rush Campbell.
"They have the guard, the tackle and the fullback, three guys on two defenders. How they handle it, I don't know, but this leakage shouldn't happen," Jaworski says. "There's your touchdown. . . . They beat the defense. The problem is that the defense beats the protection."
The pass floats out of bounds. Randle El is in the seam at the 5-yard line, shaking his head. He knows he had a touchdown.
"This is the kind of stuff that always seems to happen to teams that are having bad years. This is a great designed play, really set up beautifully," Cosell says. "They broke down the safety they were trying to break down, and the protection prevents the play from being executed. And then someone will say, 'Bad play-calling.' That's a touchdown."
The game progresses and Jaworski sees more flaws with the Redskins than with Campbell.
"He has NFL ability," Cosell says. "There is no doubt about that."
There are some concerns. Campbell waits for his receivers to finish their routes before throwing the ball -- "He can't be out of his route and have the ball still be in the quarterback's hands," Jaworski said -- and he seems less comfortable in three-step drops than in five-step drops.
The surgery is over, but the operation is a success.
"I'd say he's been solid. The game plan was well designed and played to protect him. His receivers need to stand up and help the young guy. Make some plays for him," Jaworski said.
"I thought it was the right time. I really like Mark, and for the most part thought he played pretty well, maybe a little inconsistent. But you have to look ahead. You have to find out if he can play. Is he your future or not?"