Campbell Strives to Turn Over A New Leaf

Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 1, 2007; Page E01

There is nothing Coach Joe Gibbs espouses more than protecting the football, and no position is more integral to that philosophy than quarterback. So of all the unsettling elements of Sunday's 52-7 debacle against New England, the sight of Jason Campbell turning over the ball a career-high four times ranked high among them.

Campbell, 25, continues to make strides his first full season as a starter, and has exceeded expectations of his coaches and teammates. He will be making just his 15th start Sunday against the New York Jets.

Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel, left, was all over Jason Campbell, who had a career-high four turnovers in the 52-7 loss to New England.
Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel, left, was all over Jason Campbell, who had a career-high four turnovers in the 52-7 loss to New England. (John McDonnell - The Post)

One area in which Campbell would most like to improve, however, is preventing turnovers.

Campbell has turned over the ball 10 times through seven games this season -- he had six turnovers in seven starts in 2006 -- with balls repeatedly knocked out of his hands. He has fumbled eight times -- four were recovered by the opposition -- and thrown six interceptions.

Injuries on the offensive line and protection breakdowns have resulted in pocket pressure and a number of blindside hits. Campbell has also endured poor exchanges from center and with tailback Clinton Portis on handoffs.

"For a quarterback you're always your worst critic and from that standpoint for me, one thing I'm going to do in practice is just try to hold on to the football with two hands," Campbell said. "I'll definitely learn from it."

Turnovers aside, Campbell's production from his seven-game run to close out last season mirrors his opening seven outings of 2007, and most importantly he is 4-3 now compared with 2-5 then. He has been much more accurate this year despite repeated drops by receivers -- he has a 59.3 completion percentage compared to 53.1 -- and aims higher.

"By the time the season's over I want to be around 63, 64 percent," he said.

Campbell's quarterback rating and passing yardage are essentially unchanged but he threw for 10 touchdowns in 2006 compared with just six in seven games this season; no Redskins wide receiver has caught a scoring pass since December and only six teams have fewer touchdown passes than Washington this season.

Only eight teams have attempted fewer passes than the Redskins, and some are clamoring for Campbell to be given more opportunities to throw the ball downfield. When asked about that yesterday, Campbell smiled broadly and said: "It's not my choice. Whatever the coaches decide, that's what I'll do."

NFL teams have on average thrown the ball 55 percent of the time this season; the Redskins have run the ball 209 times and thrown it 205 despite a rapidly declining running game. Campbell attempted three more passes over the seven-game span last year than he has the first seven games of 2007.

"I know we have been running it a lot, but at the same time Coach talked about us getting to be a balanced team on offense," Campbell said. "And I think last week, the way we got beat opened up a lot of eyes to what we need to do to make ourselves a better offense, and sometimes a change-up here or there will be better. And I feel like we're going in a direction where we're more balanced now besides just looking to run more, and I think that will help us out a lot."

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