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Zorn, Campbell Focus on Big Picture

Despite the Stats, Coach Pleased With the Effort

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 24, 2009

Washington Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell has played five series this exhibition season, has a completion percentage of 30.8 and enters perhaps the most important week of the preseason coming off a statistically dismal 1-for-7 performance in Saturday night's 17-13 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Still, Coach Jim Zorn provided a positive assessment of the situation.

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"I thought Jason did a nice job getting us into the right play," Zorn said.

A day after the Redskins' first offensive unit failed to score a touchdown for the second consecutive preseason game, Zorn played down any disappointment in Campbell's performance, concentrating more on the fifth-year quarterback's decision-making process than on the execution of his passes. Campbell, too, said the game plan called for the Redskins to try some deeper throws, including the game-opening play in which Campbell missed second-year wide receiver Malcolm Kelly on a long post route that was broken up by Steelers safety Troy Polamalu.

"I heard him say it last night," Zorn said Sunday, after he had gone over the film. "He wished he had thrown the first pass further. We always teach the receiver picks his angle, and you've got to throw it to the receiver, and it was just a little off.

"I liked the effort. I'd like more accuracy."

Each Redskins quarterback, particularly in the 18 years since the team last won the Super Bowl, has had his performances picked apart weekly, even in the preseason. But Campbell enters his third full season as a starter under even more scrutiny given the fact that the Redskins have not signed him to a contract extension, as well as the fact that the club tried to trade for Jay Cutler, then with Denver, and considered trading up in the draft to select Southern California's Mark Sanchez.

Headed into Friday's game against New England -- in which the starting offense will play at least the entire first half, the most in any of the four preseason games -- Campbell has played five series, completed 4 of 13 passes for 48 yards with neither a touchdown nor an interception. He has failed to lead a touchdown drive.

"To me, it's what we have to do -- take shots," Campbell said late Saturday night. "I can't worry about my stats and everything, because we're trying to do something to help us out during the year."

Of Campbell's seven passes, two were screens that he threw away because Pittsburgh, which has one of the league's top defenses, broke up the play. Zorn called those "good decisions," the kind he would like Campbell to make during the regular season rather than have him take an unnecessary risk.

But other throws caused more concern. On the Redskins' opening drive -- after Campbell missed Kelly deep and then threw at the feet of running back Clinton Portis on the first ill-fated screen -- Campbell had plenty of time on a third-and-10 play to find wide receiver Santana Moss over the middle. Moss had a step on his defender, and had the ball been thrown accurately, he would have easily gained a first down. But Campbell threw well over Moss's head. The ball fell incomplete, and the Redskins needed a fake punt to sustain what would end up being a 14-play drive.

"The only throw that I thought was poor was the high throw to Santana Moss for the first down," Zorn said. "Really, he should've just pulled that ball down and we should've got an easy completion. But he'll see. He'll see what the problem is."

A six-yard completion by Campbell to wide receiver Antwaan Randle El was called back because of a penalty, and Campbell's lone completion that counted was a 10-yarder to tight end Chris Cooley on third and 10 that kept the opening possession alive. The last seven plays of the 62-yard drive, which ended in Shaun Suisham's 20-yard field goal, were running plays, including a pair on which reserve back Ladell Betts was stuffed inside the Pittsburgh 5-yard line.

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