By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Apparently Washington Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell is capable of playing effectively in the preseason.
Campbell expressed surprise at the negative reaction among some members of the media and fans about his performance and statistics, and he hoped to have a solid outing Friday night against the New England Patriots in an effort to allay concerns with the regular season beginning in a little more than two weeks.
At the very least, Campbell and the first-team offense displayed progress as they had their best showing of the preseason in front of 69,384 at FedEx Field. The Redskins' starters kept pace with the Patriots' formidable offense led by quarterback Tom Brady -- who suffered a shoulder injury on his final pass of the game -- but fell short as place kicker Stephen Gostkowski connected on a 30-yard field goal with eight seconds remaining for a 27-24 Patriots victory.
Despite another loss for the Redskins (1-2) and 117 yards in penalties, there was more positive than negative for Campbell and the first-team offense, and that's a welcome change for them.
"We came out and had some fun," said Campbell, who led three first-half scoring drives and played into the third quarter. "We tried to execute a lot of different areas on the field. It was exciting to get out here and play for almost three full quarters, get our feet wet and get our feel for almost a full game. We're excited about some of the things that we did, but we can still do better."
Campbell completed only 1 of 7 passes in last week's 17-13 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers at FedEx, renewing concerns about his ability to effectively lead Washington as the team prepares for the season opener Sept. 13 against the New York Giants at Giants Stadium.
Coach Jim Zorn and offensive coordinator Sherman Smith said last week that they did not share any frustration about Campbell's first two preseason outings (he played briefly against the Baltimore Ravens). They were pleased with Campbell's focus in practice this week and figured he would fare better against the Patriots, which he did.
In his longest outing of the preseason by far, Campbell completed 13 of 22 passes for 209 yards and had a short touchdown run. He started fast and finished strong in the first half as the Redskins rallied to pull even with the Patriots (2-1) at the break after trailing by 10 points, and played one series in the third quarter.
Among Campbell's completions was a 73-yard catch-and-run to tight end Chris Cooley in the second quarter. "I think it sparked us a bit offensively," Cooley said. "I think that's my longest play since high school. I was excited I could have such a big play. I definitely feels good when you know you're that wide open."
The offensive line again provided Campbell with plenty of time to advance through his progressions, on some plays allowing him to survey both sides of the field while holding off pass rushers.
Zorn was pleased with the Redskins' No. 1 quarterback and the offensive line, which has made strides since struggling badly in training camp.
"Very pleased," Zorn said. Campbell "was very much into the game. He was competing hard and doing the things that you want. We missed on a couple of long ones, but he came right back and was running the show."
Last week against Pittsburgh, Campbell failed to connect on deep passes chosen early in the game by Zorn, Washington's play-caller. Against the Patriots, Campbell's deep touch wasn't perfect, but he had two completions of more than 20 yards as Zorn continued to take shots.
"That's something that we have done the last two weeks," Campbell said. "Last week, we took a couple of shots, this week we did the same thing. We have to continue doing that. That's only going to help us have explosive plays and to score points in this league. You have to be able to put the balls down the field and come up with some big plays."
Zorn has called for deep passes because of his confidence in the line, he said. "We're executing," Zorn said. "When you get protection -- when you get pass protection -- you can do a lot more things. You can run these longer-developing plays. Our offensive line, I'm very pleased with how they played, particularly protecting the quarterback. They are improving each week."
The Patriots are among the league's top big-play teams, and Brady and star wide receiver Randy Moss were in top form. They combined on two first-half touchdowns as Moss repeatedly beat cornerback DeAngelo Hall in coverage. Hall, the Redskins' No. 1 cornerback, struggled against Moss on a variety of patterns and also was called for a 15-yard face-mask penalty while trying to cover Moss, extending a drive that ended on Moss's 27-yard touchdown reception from Brady.
The Patriots' quarterback injured his passing shoulder late in the second quarter while being hit by defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth on the last pass attempt of the first half.
Brady, who did not return to the game after halftime, completed 12 of 19 passes for 150 yards. Moss had six receptions for 90 yards.
Colt Brennan, the Redskins' second-year reserve quarterback, continued to struggle. Brennan, competing with rookie Chase Daniel for the No. 3 job, relieved Campbell in the third quarter and was intercepted by cornerback Jonathan Wilhite, who returned the pass 99 yards for a touchdown. Later in the quarter, Brennan threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to impressive rookie wide receiver Marko Mitchell.
Place kicker Dave Rayner had a strong performance in his competition with Shaun Suisham. He connected on a 25-yard field goal in the first half and displayed a powerful leg on kickoffs. Suisham missed a 52-yard field goal attempt late in the fourth.