Redskins Notebook

Offensive Coordinator Smith Is Quick Study in West Coast Ways

The Redskins leave Carolina limping and embarrassed after absorbing a 47-3 preseason beating and losing defensive end Jason Taylor to a sprained right knee.
By Jason Reid and Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, August 24, 2008

CHARLOTTE, Aug. 23 -- Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Sherman Smith has learned a lot in his first preseason on the job.

Having worked primarily with running backs throughout his coaching career in college and the NFL, Smith was not familiar with the West Coast scheme Coach Jim Zorn has implemented. Smith has worked hard to get it all figured out, and, as Zorn expected, he has become a key member of the staff.

"I knew the approach Sherman would take; it's the approach he takes with everything, which is to work hard and get the job done," said Zorn, who will call the plays. "I was never worried about Sherman."

In addition to studying the offense and helping Zorn put together the playbook, Smith has had a major role in preparing game plans. Although strong quarterback play is among the keys to success of any offense, that's especially true in Zorn's approach, Smith said.

"So much of this offense is based on the quarterback. This West Coast offense puts a lot of stress, to me, on the quarterback because of all the stuff we ask this guy to do," Smith said. "We ask him to change [blocking] protections, we ask him to get us into the best play on runs and all of that. This offense is going to advance as fast as the quarterback can."

Smith said he is optimistic quarterback Jason Campbell is the right person to execute Zorn's plan. Smith, who joined the Redskins in February after 13 years as an assistant with the Tennessee Titans, is impressed with Campbell's "work ethic and dedication to want to win."

Campbell performed well in the first two preseason games but looked rattled Saturday night amid an often heavy pass rush. He finished 6 of 10 for 39 yards and was sacked four times in a 47-3 loss.

The Redskins' starters played the first half at Bank of America Stadium on Saturday night in a dress rehearsal for the season opener Sept. 4 against the New York Giants at Giants Stadium.

"A lot of this is going to be on Jason," Smith said. "It's going to come down to how fast can [Campbell] get to where [Seattle Pro Bowl quarterback] Matt Hasselbeck is now. But Matt Hasselbeck didn't start out there. He had to learn this system.

"To me, it's about finding out what the quarterback can handle and gradually giving him more, instead of just throwing all of it at him. And we've got to help him. We've got to be able to run the football, so we don't have to put all this pressure on Jason to have to make [all] the throws, make all the correct calls in pass protection."

But Campbell will have to be sharp in doing his part to get the blocking alignments correct, Smith said.

"I look at some of the pass routes that we have here in the West Coast offense, we had the same pass routes in Tennessee," Smith said. "But in Tennessee, we took all the pressure off [of quarterbacks Vince Young and Steve McNair]. They didn't have to check protections and things like that.

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