ESPN's Jaworski breaks down the Redskins

By Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 21, 2009; D01

MT. LAUREL, N.J. -- When the New York Giants visit the Washington Redskins, ESPN broadcasters will have the benefit of 29 cameras trained on every nook and cranny of FedEx Field. But a few days before rolling into town for "Monday Night Football," those same analysts rely on just two angles, coming from the same cameras that shoot the coaches' film that teams across the league rely on each week.

Last Thursday in Ashburn, the Redskins introduced Bruce Allen as general manager, charged with charting a new course for the future. That same day, about 175 miles northwest, Ron Jaworski was busy preparing, too.

"Oh, did you see that? [Stephon] Heyer just got nuked right there! Look at this," he said, rewinding the video for the thousandth time. "Look out, Jason. Here it comes again."

Jaworski, ESPN's veteran analyst who will be in the booth for Monday night's game, heads to his office at NFL Films' complex outside of Philadelphia and usually begins breaking down film mid-week.

Last Thursday, as the franchise tried to turn a corner from a news conference lectern, Jaworski was in his office reviewing footage from the previous week's Redskins-Raiders game. He'd already watched it a day earlier, and he'd likely watch it a couple of more times before Monday's kickoff.

Just like his days as an NFL quarterback, Jaworski's eyes usually start on the safety, but after watching each play at least a half dozen times from both angles -- one camera is a sideline view and the other is stationed in the end zone -- what Jaworski sees on video reveals something not just about the team that will take the field against the Giants, but it tells a lot about what kind of shape the roster is in going forward.

'You can win with this guy'

In the corner of his office sits a big-screen television. It's connected to a computer system that has access to thousands of NFL games. Jaworski could sort them in just about any manner -- third-down running plays, touchdowns of 20 or more yards, two-minute offense, tackles for loss.

As he combs through tape of the Redskins-Raiders, he's especially interested in Jason Campbell and the quarterback's continued development. When he first watched the tape, he was impressed with Campbell's performance out of shotgun and his success on first downs (93 of 145 with six touchdowns and a passer rating of 99.2).

The Redskins will have to decide at season's end whether Campbell figures into their plans next season. The fifth-year quarterback is a restricted free agent, which means Washington can match any other team's offer.

A year ago, Jaworski tabbed Campbell as an MVP candidate through the first eight games of the season. Despite a difficult final eight games last year and uneven play this season, Jaworski still likes what he sees, stating firmly: "I don't think you need to start over at quarterback. You can win with this guy.

"He needs a stable environment, he needs a better supporting cast. But as I look at some other quarterbacks around this league, the Redskins should be thankful to a certain degree that they've got this guy," Jaworski said. "Is he there yet? No. But you can see the fundamentals are in place; the clay is starting to be formed."

As Jaworski goes through the game film, two things stand out: the poor pass protection and the way Campbell consistently shakes off vicious hits. He still thinks Campbell has some mechanics problem and struggles to throw on the run. The quarterback is making better decisions than he has in the past but doesn't always make proper adjustments.

Jaworski cites two instances in the Raiders' game when Campbell received a call in the huddle -- a reverse -- that clearly was the wrong play for the defensive formation. In both instances, the Raiders' cornerback blitzed and stuffed the play.

"This is a mental error on Jason's part," Jaworski said. "You've got to get out of this play."

Jaworski admittedly isn't sure how much Campbell is allowed to do. He recalls reviewing film before the team's first "Monday Night Football" game, and he was struck by the absence of audibles. In a pre-production meeting, he asked running back Clinton Portis about that.

"He told me, 'I haven't heard an audible since I was in Denver,' " Jaworski said. "But we're seeing Jason run some audibles now. I still wonder how complex is this offense?"

Jaworski noted the game's biggest audible early in the fourth quarter. Campbell approached the line, ready to run a stretch run play. But he spotted one safety deep and a cornerback playing wide receiver Santana Moss tight. Campbell raised his hand near his face mask and flashed a signal to Moss. The wide receiver ran a deep route and Campbell hit him for a 30-yard gain. The Redskins scored a touchdown three plays later.

"This is the evolution of a quarterback. It takes time," Jaworski said. "He's far from where I think he's going to be. But he's not looking like the guy who was struggling midseason."

Constant changes

Preparing for Monday night, Jaworski will watch the Redskins' four games leading up to the Giants' contest. He won't bother with the season opener between the two teams because so much as changed for both teams. The Redskins, for example, began last week's game with only 13 of the 22 players who started for them in Week 1.

"When you consider this bunch that's playing right now with what they started the season with -- the offensive line, the tight end, the running backs -- I mean, it's a practice squad team," Jaworski said.

Even since Jaworski last watched the Redskins in-person, Oct. 26 in Philadelphia, the Redskins have different personnel and function differently on the field. In that Eagles' game, Coach Jim Zorn had just been stripped of his play-calling duties. Offensive coordinator Sherman Smith and consultant Sherman Lewis now mostly shared the responsibility. And since that time, the Redskins' offense has shown dramatic improvements -- but Jaworski doesn't attribute that to the play-calling shakeup.

Prior to the Eagles' game, Jaworski went through every Redskins game of the season and charted the plays.

"Each play we asked, 'What would have you have done differently? What was a better play to call in that situation?'" Jaworski said. "And there were very, very few plays that were badly called plays."

He attributes the team's improvement to execution, chemistry, continuity and a noticeable change in the comfort level of players. He credited coaches for avoiding complex game-planning with a patchwork offensive line and inexperience at some of the skill positions.

As he goes through film, Jaworski points out one-by-one each linemen who gets beat by a defender. Inevitably, the play ends with Campbell planted into the ground.

"Play-calling?" Jaworski asked at one point. "What play do you call when this is the protection?"

As Campbell gets driven to the ground, Jaworski uses a small remote to rewind and watch one scene five different times. Midway through the third quarter, Raiders rookie Matt Shaughnessy zipped by Heyer for Oakland's third sack of the day. Campbell rolled over and remained seated for a second, shrugging with both hands into the air.

"Look at that body language," Jaworski said. " 'What am I supposed to do, man?' "

There's a lot to like

As he studies the film, Jaworski follows the ball but also pays a lot of attention to the trenches. The coaches' film reveals that a pair of backups proved especially vital: Todd Yoder, a tight end who was forced to start at fullback, and Kedric Golston, a defensive tackle to started in place of Albert Haynesworth.

But for the most part, as Jaworski highlighted individual performances, he evaluated players who might not be a part of the Redskins' long-term planning -- and who weren't expected to be major contributors this season either.

"You're looking at a backfield that's Quinton Ganther, Rock Cartwright and Marcus Mason. Go around the league and ask anyone to name the Washington Redskins' running backs and you'll get no one who can answer you correctly," Jaworski said.

Late in the first quarter at Oakland, Campbell hit Ganther on a short screen pass. Ganther took it 42 yards downfield, breaking tackles along the way, before he was caught by Raiders cornerback Chris Johnson.

"This should be a touchdown," Jaworski said. "But this is what they're dealing with right now. You're getting absolutely phenomenal effort. You got a guy busting his butt, hard run, runs over people, but look how easily he gets caught. He doesn't have the speed to make this a big play. Should've been a touchdown."

As he watches the remainder of the game, Jaworski is enamored with the Redskins' defensive front seven, loves rookie Brian Orakpo, thinks safety LaRon Landry is good against the run and a liability against the pass, wishes Fred Davis and the receivers weren't so faithful to "blackboard running" and would veer from their routes when they see an opportunity.

For the most part, he sees a team with Pro Bowl effort across the board and Pop Warner talent where it hurts most.

"It's a beat-up bunch, a replacement team," he said. "But I'll give everyone on the coaching staff credit: they're playing hard."

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