Despite Rocky Offseason, Redskins' Campbell Enters Camp Confidently

By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 29, 2009

During a closed-door meeting in owner Daniel Snyder's office in April, Washington Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell listened attentively as Snyder voiced concerns about Campbell's performance last season. Snyder told Campbell he wants him to become a franchise quarterback, Campbell recalled Monday, but he has not reached that level yet in Snyder's opinion.

Snyder called the meeting to clear the air about his efforts to replace Campbell, Washington's starter for the last 2 1/2 seasons, during the offseason and encourage Campbell to assume more leadership. Although Campbell didn't agree with everything he heard in the meeting that Vinny Cerrato, Washington's executive vice president of football operations, and Coach Jim Zorn also attended, he left Snyder's office more determined to succeed.

"No one has to tell me I need to push myself, I need to be the leader of the team and I have to set an example," Campbell said. "I know that, and that's why I work as hard as I do, because I want to be the type of quarterback who takes us to the next level. But you always have things you can work on, things you can do to improve, and one thing is I'm going to be a lot more vocal this year. I really think it's time for me to take that role, and I'm going to let all my teammates know that and see that."

Spurred by Snyder's assessment of him, Campbell took more initiative in setting the agenda for offseason workouts. He personally contacted receivers to participate in throwing sessions at Redskins Park and, in some cases, admonished players for lacking focus, many in the organization said.

As training camp opens Thursday, Campbell plans to shoulder more responsibility for how the Redskins perform in their second season under Zorn, whose job security seems, at least in part, linked to the quarterback's performance. And after Snyder's recent pursuit of potential replacements for Campbell, this season could be his last with the Redskins unless he has a breakthrough year.

"Yeah, you know a lot of stuff can happen, and I've thought about every scenario," said the 2005 first-round pick, beginning his fifth season with the Redskins. "But for the most part, I'm very confident in having a great year and just seeing where everything falls. I'm really not putting pressure on myself. . . . I'm not looking at this like it's going to define my career. I'm just going to go out and play, but I am very optimistic. This can be a great year for us for a lot of reasons. As an offense, we're going to be a lot better."

Poor production on offense was considered Washington's biggest deficiency as the team went 2-6 in the second half of its schedule, finished 8-8 and failed to qualify for the playoffs for the seventh time in Snyder's 10 seasons as owner. The Redskins produced an average of only 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, the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants at FedEx Field, and the Baltimore Ravens on the road. Overall, Campbell was sacked 38 times, the fourth-highest total in the league.

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 they disappointed as rookies.

In only his second full season as a starter last season, Campbell established personal bests with an 84.3 passer rating, 3,245 yards and 13 touchdown passes while throwing only six interceptions. His production, however, tailed off after the midpoint of the season, and the Redskins acknowledged they attempted to trade for former Denver Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler, who was traded to the Chicago Bears. They also inquired about trading up in the draft to select former Southern California quarterback Mark Sanchez, whom the New York Jets selected with the fifth overall pick.

With top wide receiver Santana Moss often double-teamed, Campbell had few viable options in the passing game. And although running back Clinton Portis finished fourth in the league with 1,487 yards rushing, he rushed for more than 80 yards only once in the final eight games. The Redskins ranked fourth overall defensively last season.

"As an offense, we didn't do enough to help our defense, and we were all disappointed about that," Campbell said. "We all believe in what Coach Zorn and the coaches want us to do, we know we're capable of a lot more than we did last year, and just being in the offense for another year, and with some of the changes and adjustments we've made, we're confident we can be successful."

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