Tracee Hamilton - Sports Columnist

Campbell Staves Off Skeptics -- For Now

The Washington Redskins' first-team offense scored 17 points in the first half in a 27-24 loss to the New England Patriots.
By Tracee Hamilton
Sunday, August 30, 2009

After Jason Campbell went 1 for 7 last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Coach Jim Zorn called his performance "very good," and eyebrows all over the Washington area flew to the rafters. Had the Redskins decided to coddle their starting quarterback after an offseason in which he was left dazed and confused -- and ultimately angry -- by his team's pursuit of Jay Cutler and Mark Sanchez?

But Campbell's very solid performance Friday night in a 27-24 loss to the New England Patriots -- 13 for 22 for 209 yards, a 73-yard completion, no interceptions, a rushing touchdown and a passer rating of 90.9 -- should have laid that concern to rest. With the starters expected to see far less action in Thursday night's preseason finale at Jacksonville, Campbell should be free of criticism until at least Sept. 14. Right?

"Never. It's never enough. Next week it'll be, 'He didn't hit the big ball to Santana [Moss].' It'll be something," he said Friday night.

Next week? How about next day? Zorn was fairly lavish in his praise of Campbell Saturday at Redskins Park, but sure enough, he brought up the missed pass to Moss, which came on a first-and-10 play from the Washington 28-yard line with 5 minutes 48 seconds remaining in the first quarter and the score tied at 7.

"I saw him being real sharp on a lot of the things he did," Zorn said. "We needed to see him hit that deep post to Santana, which I thought was just an excellent route by Santana, great speed, great acceleration away from the defender. I would like to have seen him hit that."

Campbell would like to have hit that, too; he named that as the throw he'd most like to have back.

"Last week [it was] a yard short, this week it was a yard long, next time it'll be right in the chest," he said.

Still, after grading the film Saturday morning, Zorn was happy with Campbell's performance, his longest by far of the preseason. He especially liked his play on third and goal at the 4 with 3:13 remaining in the first half, when Campbell examined all options before a nice run into the end zone. He threw his arms in the air and you could practically hear him exhale from the cheap seats.

"He had a plus [grading the play] because as we began the play we got crushed inside with our receivers and DBs all kind of running into each other," Zorn said. "He made a heads-up play by moving out of the pocket, still looking downfield for the open guy -- put a real nice pump-fake on the linebacker, the guy left his feet, it was pretty slick, very smooth by Jason -- and ended up being able to score, so that was an excellent play, definitely a big-league play."

There has been a dearth of big-league plays by the Redskins this season, and despite Friday night's performance, Campbell still is hitting just 49 percent of his passes in the preseason, hasn't thrown for a touchdown, and his overall rating is 73.2. Some of that seems to be a product of the shortened playing time. Campbell seems to play better when he starts a series with several early completions, which helps him find a rhythm. The extended time on the field also helps.

"That's my thing," he said. "Once you get some completions you'll be able to pretty much dial up anything you want to. That's the important thing, get into a groove, get into a rhythm, not just myself, but the receivers like to get the ball in their hands and get a feel for it early in the game. Once you get completions you start getting into a rhythm and everything changes.

"It's hard when you're not completing balls. That's when you come out, try to take some shots downfield and do some things differently. That's part of preseason, that's part of why we did it, so we could see what we need to do, how we could improve on it."

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