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Offense Is Told to Start Again

First Team Will Play in Preseason Finale Despite Risk of Injury

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A look at who is in or out for the weekend game against the Jaguars. Video by Jason Reid/The Washington Post
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By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Things were not going well. The thought was reinforced for Washington Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell every time a Carolina Panthers defensive lineman flung him to the ground Saturday at Bank of America Stadium.

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The preseason dress rehearsal the Redskins staged for their season opener, the first half of which the offensive and defensive starters planned to make a positive statement about their progress since the beginning of training camp under new coach Jim Zorn, went awry quickly and ended in an embarrassing 47-3 loss. And when the rout was completed, Campbell made another observation.

"I just said: 'No. We can't go out like that,' " Campbell said. "We know what we're capable of as an offense, as a team, and we can't start the season like that. We [have to] go back to work."

Zorn agreed. Concerned that Washington's offensive starters played so poorly in the first half against the Panthers, he has made a risky decision to have the group play again tomorrow -- for at least one series but probably no more than two -- in the final preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at FedEx Field. The defensive starters will not play, Zorn said Monday.

Although he acknowledged there is the potential for injury in another meaningless preseason game, Zorn believes that having his top offensive performers end the preseason on such a down note could be an even a bigger gamble. The Redskins support his decision, many veterans said, particularly because Washington kicks off the NFL's regular season Sept. 4 in a nationally televised game against the New York Giants at Giants Stadium.

"It only makes sense" to have the starters play again, wide receiver Antwaan Randle El said. "It makes sense to get back out there, get it tuned up, cranked up and get it fixed. You just don't want to have that as your last impression going into your season. Really, your last impression shouldn't be that."

"Manhandled" was the word many coaches and players used to describe the performance of the first-team offense. "One guy said [we ate] humble pie. You know? He was right," offensive coordinator Sherman Smith said. "We thought we were better than what we are and we found out. Now, I don't think we're as bad as we played, and I don't think they're as good as they played. But they played with a little more purpose than we did."

Zorn was highly critical of the offensive line. Campbell was under duress from the outset and throughout the only preseason game in which the entire first-team offense played the whole first half. Although the Panthers' secondary was sharp in man-to-man coverage, contributing to Washington's ineffective passing game, the veteran offensive line "played awful," Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Samuels said, losing many one-on-one matchups.

Carolina's defensive line applied significant pressure without the help of blitzes. The Panthers' defensive tackles collapsed the pocket in the middle and Samuels and right tackle Jon Jansen struggled against edge rushers.

During one stretch spanning two drives in the first quarter, Campbell was sacked three times in six plays. Defensive end Julius Peppers overwhelmed Samuels on the third sack, pushing him into Campbell, forcing a fumble and recovering the ball.

"Obviously, we have to make some adjustments," left guard Pete Kendall said. "First and foremost, when you talk about assessment of everything, it primarily lies with each of us as individuals. We need to play better. That being said, there are things that we can do, communications we can make between each other, or adjustments we can make as an offense, to put ourselves in schemes that give us a better chance.

"All those things have been evaluated and the corrections are being made. We go forward from there. But the primary thing is that you have to do your job when you're asked to do your job. Hopefully, we'll be quicker to correct our techniques. Hopefully, we'll be quicker to get to any adjustments from a scheme perspective or a technique perspective that's going to help us. But again, you have to do your job."


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