By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 4, 2009
Encouraged by the Washington Redskins' performance during minicamp and officially putting the drama of the offseason behind him, quarterback Jason Campbell expects "a lot of improvement" in the second year of Coach Jim Zorn's West Coast offense, he said yesterday.
"You know you're just getting started all over again, and it's really about just getting back to the technique and the fundamentals, but you have to feel good about what we can do as an offense," Campbell said after the three-day session ended at Redskins Park. "I think we all have a better understanding of what Coach Zorn wants from us, and everyone is more familiar with everything we're supposed to be doing out there.
"Last year, it was all new. But just from [minicamp] last year to this year, you can see a lot of guys making those strides to get to where we want to be. I know I feel good about what we're trying to do, and you just feel more relaxed when you're comfortable with everything going on around you. This still is only the beginning, and there's a lot of hard work ahead to put it all together, but you always want to get off to a good start."
The minicamp was the first practice since owner Daniel Snyder repeatedly pushed to replace Campbell. According to league sources, he first attempted to trade for Denver Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler, who was traded to the Chicago Bears, and then tried to trade up in the draft to select Southern California quarterback Mark Sanchez. The Jets traded up and selected Sanchez with the fifth overall pick. Had the Redskins drafted Sanchez, Campbell's representative, Joel Segal, would have requested a trade, NFL sources said.
"In spite of all the stuff that happened during the offseason," offensive coordinator Sherman Smith said, "I think he just came out here and he's taken over."
As the situation played out publicly, Campbell said he was focused on preparing for the season because he owed it to his coaches and teammates to provide his best effort. "I think he handled it great," running back Clinton Portis said. "I don't think he ever got down on himself.
"I think that would light a fire under a guy. To see the response . . . Jason never got into bickering or feeling down. He understood it's a business and you got to produce more. And I think he got the attitude to go out and produce more."
In minicamp, Campbell took command of the offense as the coaching staff hoped he would. "You can see he's comfortable making the calls out there," Smith said. "You can see him taking charge in the huddle. He feels good about himself and he feels good about what we're doing. It just seems like he's saying, 'Hey, man, this is my team,' and he's off to a real good start."
The Redskins started well in the 2008 season, winning four straight -- including impressive road victories over the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles -- after a season-opening loss to the New York Giants. They went 6-2 in the first half, and their surprising record at the midpoint of their schedule stirred excitement at the complex that the team would qualify for the postseason in consecutive seasons for the second time since 1991-92.
Washington, however, collapsed in the second half, going 2-6 to finish 8-8, and missed the playoffs for the seventh time in Snyder's 10 seasons as owner. From Nov. 3 through Dec. 14, the Redskins went 1-5, including three losses in a row, and poor production on offense was their biggest problem.
The Redskins averaged 16.6 points, ranking 28th in the 32-team league. Campbell was battered in the final eight games as the offensive line was overmatched in losses to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cowboys and Giants at FedEx Field, and the Baltimore Ravens on the road. Wide receivers Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly and tight end Fred Davis were expected to provide a boost for Zorn's offense, which features many three- and four-receiver sets, but each had disappointing rookie seasons.
With top wide receiver Santana Moss often double-teamed, Campbell had few viable options in the passing game. And although Portis finished fourth in the league with 1,487 yards rushing, he rushed for at least 80 yards just twice in the final eight games. The Redskins were ranked fourth overall defensively last season and moved to bolster the defense in free agency and the draft.
Bringing back veteran guard Derrick Dockery, a former Redskins draft pick who spent the last two seasons with the Buffalo Bills, was Washington's biggest move on offense, but Campbell doesn't think big changes were key to improving the offense.
"I think we'll be better because of everything we've been through together as an offense," he said. "Guys want to be successful and show that we can be that type of offense we all want to be, and I'm definitely trying to go out there and have a great year. I'm trying to set the right example for my teammates."