By Dan Steinberg and Paul Tenorio
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
The Washington Redskins will continue their playoff push behind veteran quarterback Todd Collins, the longtime backup whose strong play in relief of injured starter Jason Campbell has his team on the cusp of a wild-card berth.
Should Collins complete Washington's improbable late-season surge with a fourth straight win, the starting quarterback situation could become more complicated, a situation Coach Joe Gibbs said would be dealt with "down the road."
Campbell has not yet begun running drills, although he hopes to this week, and Collins -- who has thrown four touchdowns passes without an interception and has already collected one NFC player of the week award -- will start against the Dallas Cowboys in the regular season finale Sunday. If Washington beats Dallas, or if New Orleans and Minnesota both lose this weekend, the Redskins would travel to Seattle the following weekend for an opening-round playoff game.
Campbell's chances of being ready for such a hypothetical game were, according to director of sports medicine Bubba Tyer, "50-50." The third-year pro continues to recuperate from a dislocated left kneecap suffered more than two weeks ago against the Chicago Bears. Gibbs lavished praise on Collins yesterday -- four times using the word "outstanding" to describe his play -- and said the team's decision-makers would not worry about sorting out any quarterback quandaries until Campbell is healthy.
"We'll face that when it comes to it; right now the way Todd's playing is awful impressive," Gibbs said. "I don't need to make that decision now; none of us do. We'll address that down the road."
Campbell was at Redskins Park receiving treatment yesterday and declined to assess his chances of returning for the playoffs.
"Right now we're just taking everything day-to-day," he said, calling his recuperation "still a work in progress."
Indeed, Campbell and several other Redskins were still savoring Sunday night's 32-21 win over the Vikings. The team arrived home from Minneapolis around 4 in the morning, and Gibbs and his staff planned to work through the holiday formulating a game plan for Dallas.
"I'm gonna be buried here with all the coaches and that's not a pretty sight," Gibbs joked. "I know all of them eat ice and belch and everything else that's going on back there; it's not pretty."
The game plan for a crucial game against a traditional rival will revolve around one of the hottest quarterbacks in the NFL. Collins has been confident and efficient in his three games: two starts and a relief appearance. The veteran has completed nearly 61 percent of his passes and accounted for just one turnover. In his final three games before he was injured, all Redskins losses, Campbell completed 60 percent of his passes, threw for three touchdowns and four interceptions, took seven sacks and accounted for seven turnovers.
Collins hasn't thrown enough passes to qualify for the league's quarterback rankings, but among quarterbacks with at least 70 attempts, he has the third-best rating (behind Tom Brady and Jake Delhomme). Using the same guidelines, Collins would lead the NFL in yards-per-attempt, ranking directly ahead of Brady, Dallas's Tony Romo and Indianapolis's Peyton Manning.
"He's making plays," said wide receiver Keenan McCardell, who was held out of the Minnesota game with a calf strain but should be available against the Cowboys. "You've got to give him more than just saying simply 'knowledge of an offense.' He's making plays, he's getting the ball to the playmakers."
Perhaps most importantly, Collins has been at his most accurate in the second half of games, which was a perpetual trouble spot during the previous losing spell. After intermission, Collins has completed more than 73 percent of his passes, has not been sacked and has a quarterback rating of 119.3.
"It's a privilege to have him out there making those plays at the quarterback position, because when it comes this late into the season we just need to try to get some wins," wide receiver Santana Moss said. "I feel like Jason got us here, and unfortunately he's not able to finish the season with us, so Todd's pretty much picking up where he left [off]."
Gibbs said much the same; among the words he used to describe Collins's play were "exceptional," "extremely tough," "great" and "fearless."
" I don't think anybody would have guessed that Todd would play like this," he said.
Campbell threw footballs once last week but has yet to run since his injury. Tyer said Campbell would try to get on a treadmill this week, and would continue riding a stationary bicycle, doing table exercises and simulating a running motion in a swim tank. He called Campbell "week-to-week."
"We want to do some things that strengthen his quad, because the stronger you get his quad the more stable his leg and the knee are gonna be and that's what he needs to work on," Tyer said. "It's just a little more intense this week."
Campbell, who watched Sunday night's win at home, said he was excited by the winning streak but admitted to some frustration at being off the field.
"The hardest part is sitting back watching all this," he said. "We're having a lot of fun right now as a team, we're winning, and you feel like you're an outsider looking in, watching. But I'm just proud for our team. We've been through so much this year, and for us to be 8-7 with a chance to go to the playoffs is a huge deal."