| The West Coast shouldn't faze Campbell, who went 13-0 with it at Auburn.|
4 at N.Y. Giants (T)
14 NEW ORLEANS
28 at Dallas
5 at Philadelphia
12 ST. LOUIS
26 at Detroit
3 PITTSBURGH (M)
23 at Seattle
30 N.Y. GIANTS
7 at Baltimore
14 at Cincinnati
28 at San Francisco
|Jason Taylor, Defensive end: The Skins' big acquisition figures to significantly improve the pass rush of the league's No. 4 defense. Taylor, the NFL leader in sacks this decade, moves from his usual blind-side spot to the left but will be doing a lot of flip-flopping with bookend Andre Carter, who quietly had 10 1/2 sacks. "We're very flexible," says defensive coordinator Greg Blache.|
Jim Zorn's offense is the seventh system in eight years for quarterback Jason Campbell -- and maybe the one that sticks.
Jason Campbell owes his football career to his ability to pick up newconcepts, and the Redskins quarterback has been hit with plenty over the lastseven seasons. Dating to his freshman year at Auburn, he had to learn sixoffensive systems because of a near-constant turnover of coordinators andquarterbacks coaches. Campbell is practically starting from scratch yet againwith new coach Jim Zorn, the longtime tutor of Seahawks quarterbacks who bringsa West Coast-style offense to Washington. Zorn was hired by owner Dan Snyder inFebruary as offensive coordinator, then was promoted to coach after the Skinsfailed to land a bigger name to replace the retired Joe Gibbs.
"Each guy is always trying to teach you something different," Campbell says."Everything I've learned in the past, I've just had to put it out of my mind."
But Campbell's seventh offensive overhaul could be the charm. The last timehe ran a version of the West Coast, in his senior year at Auburn, he set theschool's season record for completion percentage (64.6%) while leading theTigers to a 13-0 record. And last year Campbell took another stepforward as the Redskins' starter, completing 60.0% of his passes for 2,700 yardsand 12 touchdowns before his season abruptly ended when he dislocated his leftkneecap in Week 14. Journeyman Todd Collins, 36, who hadn't thrown ameaningful pass in 10 years, stepped in and reeled off four straight wins tohelp Washington make the playoffs, but Zorn's first move as coach was to quashany QB controversy and pronounce Campbell his starter.
A nimble pocket passer with a strong arm and a quick, compact release, the6' 5", 230-pound Campbell is an ideal fit for Zorn's system, whichemphasizes timing and tempo over presnap shifting and postsnap trickery, both ofwhich were nettlesome hallmarks of former coordinator Don Breaux's offense.Receivers were also frustrated by a system that depended heavily on matchups atthe line of scrimmage, according them fewer options. "Last year it all dependedon coverages," says Pro Bowl tight end Chris Cooley. "If your matchup wasn'tthere, you were running to get someone else open. This year it's up to us to getopen and make it work."
Given the responsibility on Campbell to keep the offense efficient, thequarterback has been under intense scrutiny from Zorn, who scolds him foreverything from the height at which he takes the snap from under center -- "Jasonis much more explosive when he's playing lower," Zorn says -- to the distance hisoff hand travels when he pats the ball before a throw, a habit Zorn hopes tostamp out altogether. Not only does the pat waste precious time, Zorn says, but"it's also an indicator for the defensive back to start driving on the ball. IfJason doesn't pat, the DB gets there a little bit later."
To further refine Campbell's already smooth mechanics, Zorn has subjected thepasser to a range of unconventional drills of his own invention. He has peltedhis QB with large exercise balls (meant to represent onrushing linemen) to teachhim how to move better in the pocket under duress; bombarded him with blockingpads when he's looking downfield to steel his focus; and even sent him skiddingdown a Slip 'n Slide in cleats to master the feet-first slide on a scramble.Says Zorn of his eager pupil, a first-round draft pick in 2005, "He wants to begreat."
To achieve that, Campbell will need stability at the top. And just how longZorn sticks around depends on how well his quarterback responds to instruction.Given the Redskins' limited commitment and simmering interest in anotherbrand-name coach (namely, the currently retired Bill Cowher), it's possibleanything less than the playoffs could mean one and done for Zorn. "A lot ofquarterbacks who you see make the Pro Bowl or have consistent seasons have beenin the same offense for years," Campbell says. "Hopefully Coach Zorn will behere for a minute so we can establish some growth." -- AndrewLawrence