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Offensive Coordinator Smith Is Quick Study in West Coast Ways

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.

"Our [protection] rules would pick up any adjustments the defenses made. It's different here. As the quarterback, you have to change protections. You have to tell the line and backs, 'I want you to do this.' That's just something we have to do and have to get right."

Rookie Kelly Is Close

The Redskins last week increased the workload of rookie wide receiver Malcolm Kelly, who recently had arthroscopic knee surgery, but Kelly was not active against Carolina. Kelly could make his professional debut Thursday in the team's final preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Fed Ex Field.

Kelly said he is confident he will contribute this season despite missing most of training camp and the preseason.

"Football is football. That's what the veteran guys told me from the first day I got here," Kelly said. "They told me that just because you've been growing up dreaming of being in the NFL for so long, you've got to realize that this isn't any different. Football is universal. You can play or you can't."

But Kelly acknowledged he probably would be a bit nervous.

"In the end, you'll go out there and get those butterflies a little bit, but you can't be too nervous," he said. "If you go out there nervous, you know the dude on the other side of the ball is going to knock you out. That's just how you've got to approach it."

Encouraging News

The Redskins received good news on linebacker Marcus Washington, Zorn said, with a trip to a specialist revealing no structural damage to his hip. Washington went to see the doctor as a precaution, believing his hip -- surgically repaired a few years ago -- was merely fatigued, and he rested it Saturday night.

"It's just fatigued," Zorn said. "Marcus had a good feeling about that."

Washington is coming off a fully fit offseason for the first time since 2004.

With Washington out Saturday, veteran backup Khary Campbell moved into his starting spot. . . .

Linebacker Matt Sinclair continues to seek further medical attention for his back. Sinclair was out of practice all week with a back ailment. Zorn said an MRI exam showed a problem, and the team is still examining the full scope of the issue.

With Rocky McIntosh and H.B. Blades still limited a bit while coming off of knee surgery, the Redskins were short at the linebacker position Saturday and planned to play more nickel coverage (an extra defensive back) than usual, Zorn said.

Wade, Goode Sit Out

Veteran backup tackle Todd Wade (ankle) and reserve tight end Jason Goode (turf toe) missed the game but could be back by next week. . . .

The local feed on WUSA-9 was lost for the opening kickoff and the first few plays because of technical difficulties. WUSA-9 and other local stations used the feed from cable network Comcast SportsNet.

"There are several area stadiums, and we all get the feed from Comcast, and the feed from Comcast failed because they lost the fiber [line] coming out of the stadium," said Allan S. Horlick, president and general manager of WUSA-9. . . .

This game served as a homecoming for many Redskins with ties to the North Carolina area. Long snapper Ethan Albright, fullback Nehemiah Broughton, corner Cedric Holt, cornerback Leigh Torrence and McIntosh are natives of either North Carolina or South Carolina.

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