By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 13, 2007
If nothing else, the Washington Redskins' preseason opener Saturday night will be a learning experience for quarterback Jason Campbell. He and the first-string offense failed to score in a 14-6 victory over the Tennessee Titans, and struggled to protect the football, but there were flashes of where the team hopes to be going.
Campbell, in his first training camp as a starter, was under duress behind a makeshift offensive line, yet remained calm in several third-down situations and executed perfect passes. His finest moment came in the first quarter, when on third and three -- a down on which the Titans had been bludgeoning the line -- Campbell took a quick three-step drop and, with the flick of the wrist, floated a pass into the arms of wide receiver Santana Moss, who had gained a step on the secondary.
It was precisely the kind of timing route that gave Campbell problems last season -- when he started the final seven games -- but his footwork and touch were impeccable on the 39-yard completion, with Moss playing a big role as well. The Redskins have struggled to get the ball downfield in three seasons under Coach Joe Gibbs, and have placed an emphasis on deep passes.
"Santana did a great job of getting off his release," Campbell said. "We've gotta have big plays to win this season. You can't just try to drive the ball with 15, 20 plays every drive. You see the teams that win, and it's the teams that make some of those big catches, big plays."
Campbell's inexperience showed as well, however. He had difficulty adjusting formations to the blitz on a few occasions, misconnected on some open receivers and fumbled twice after being hit. Campbell's ability to hold on to the football last year earned him kudos from Gibbs, and he said after the game that he hopes Campbell gets back to that. Campbell, a relentless film student, will spend the next few days analyzing his 6-for-14 performance, but his initial reaction was mostly positive.
"It's a good thing that we moved the ball, and all those [mistakes] are very correctable," Campbell said.Springs Returns
A year ago top cornerback Shawn Springs entered the first preseason game less than fully healthy, aggravated a groin problem and missed half of the season with a sports hernia. Now, the Redskins are banking on Springs being among their most valuable players, and he was in much better spirits after Saturday's game. Springs played most of the first half, giving up one reception, but looked solid overall. He was happy for the work.
"I needed it," Springs said. "I missed a lot of football and didn't play in minicamp or OTAs [organized team activities]. So I needed to practice as much as possible."