Jason Campbell Is Confident Heading Into What Is Likely a Make-or-Break Year for the Redskins Quarterback

By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 9, 2009

On his final "day off" before the season begins Sunday, Washington Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell actually relaxed a little.

Instead of reviewing hours of game film of an upcoming opponent -- in this case, the New York Giants -- as he usually does on Tuesdays during the season, Campbell planned to watch only another hour of video and spend most of the afternoon visualizing plays he anticipated Jim Zorn might include in the Week 1 game plan. Not exactly a day of fun for most people, but definitely a break for Campbell.

"I always kind of laugh when people talk about us being off when we don't practice, because you're never really off once the season starts if you're trying to accomplish something," said Campbell, Washington's starter for the last 2 1/2 seasons. "We're working for something important that's about to start now. I need to be ready."

As the Redskins resume preparations Wednesday for Sunday's game against the Giants at Giants Stadium, Campbell said he has never been more excited about the team's outlook. Nor has he ever been under more pressure.

The Redskins twice tried to trade Campbell in the offseason and, in the last season of his contract, he knows he is entering a make-or-break year in Washington. He does so with confidence -- citing improved pass protection in the preseason and the development of second-year wide receiver Malcolm Kelly as notable improvements on offense -- but knows the only meaningful barometer will be the team's win-loss record.

"No matter what you think about what you can do, or how you feel about things, it's all about going out there on the field and proving it," said Campbell, a 2005 first-round pick who is beginning his fifth season with the Redskins. "I look at our team and I feel good about where we're at and all the work we put in to get here.

"People from the outside may look at it differently, but the only thing that matters is what we believe and what we do. I definitely think we have a lot of the right people in place now, and we're doing the things we need to do, to accomplish the team goals that are important to us."

Poor production on offense was considered the Redskins' biggest deficiency last season as the team went 2-6 over the second half of the schedule, finished 8-8 and failed to qualify for the playoffs for the seventh time in Daniel Snyder's 10 seasons as owner. The Redskins produced just 16.6 points per game, ranking 28th in the 32-team league. Campbell was sacked 38 times (just three quarterbacks were sacked more), and a productive No. 2 receiver did not emerge to complement top wideout Santana Moss.

The Redskins made only one major change in line personnel, bringing back Derrick Dockery, who began his career with the team, to replace left guard Pete Kendall. But they also adjusted their protection scheme, implementing pass protection "rules" for a variety of blitzes that eliminated the need for Campbell to make many protection adjustments. Although the first-team offense was not especially productive as the Redskins went 1-3 in the preseason, the line was surprisingly effective in protecting Campbell.

"Some of the changes we made as far as our protections, you see how they worked," Campbell said. "The guys really did a great job just giving me time to go through my reads and make plays. You have to feel good about that."

Of course, that was only the preseason. The line also protected well starting out the 2008 season and wore down in the second half. Left tackle Chris Samuels and right guard Randy Thomas are coming off knee surgeries and have already experienced problems that will have to be managed all season, prompting the team to carry 10 offensive linemen on the opening 53-man roster.

"The changes we made are definitely going to help," Campbell said. "And with Chris and Randy, you know those guys are going to give you everything they have. The coaches will be smart with them."

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