JASON CAMPBELLowes his football career to his ability to pick up new concepts, and theRedskins quarterback has been hit with plenty over the last seven seasons.Dating to his freshman year at Auburn, he had to learn six offensive systemsbecause of a near-constant turnover of coordinators and quarterbacks coaches.Campbell is practically starting from scratch yet again with new coach JimZorn, the longtime tutor of Seahawks quarterbacks who brings a WestCoast--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.
This is an article from the Sept. 1, 2008 issue
"Each guy isalways trying to teach you something different," Campbell says."Everything I've learned in the past, I've just had to put it out of mymind."
But Campbell'sseventh offensive overhaul could be the charm. The last time he ran a versionof the West Coast, in his senior year at Auburn, he set the school's seasonrecord for completion percentage (64.6%) while leading the Tigers to a 13--0record. And last year Campbell took another step forward as the Redskins'starter, completing 60.0% of his passes for 2,700 yards and 12 touchdownsbefore his season abruptly ended when he dislocated his left kneecap in Week14. Journeyman Todd Collins, 36, who hadn't thrown a meaningful pass in 10years, stepped in and reeled off four straight wins to help Washington make theplayoffs, but Zorn's first move as coach was to quash any QB controversy andpronounce Campbell his starter.
A nimble pocketpasser with a strong arm and a quick, compact release, the 6'5", 230-poundCampbell is an ideal fit for Zorn's system, which emphasizes timing and tempoover presnap shifting and postsnap trickery, both of which were nettlesomehallmarks of former coordinator Don Breaux's offense. Receivers were alsofrustrated by a system that depended heavily on matchups at the line ofscrimmage, according them fewer options. "Last year it all depended oncoverages," says Pro Bowl tight end Chris Cooley. "If your matchupwasn't there, you were running to get someone else open. This year it's up tous to get open and make it work."
Given theresponsibility on Campbell to keep the offense efficient, the quarterback hasbeen under intense scrutiny from Zorn, who scolds him for everything from theheight at which he takes the snap from under center—"Jason is much moreexplosive when he's playing lower," Zorn says—to the distance his off handtravels when he pats the ball before a throw, a habit Zorn hopes to stamp outaltogether. Not only does the pat waste precious time, Zorn says, but "it'salso an indicator for the defensive back to start driving on the ball. If Jasondoesn't pat, the DB gets there a little bit later."
To further refineCampbell's already smooth mechanics, Zorn has subjected the passer to a rangeof unconventional drills of his own invention. He has pelted his QB with largeexercise balls (meant to represent onrushing linemen) to teach him how to movebetter in the pocket under duress; bombarded him with blocking pads when he'slooking downfield to steel his focus; and even sent him skidding down a Slip 'nSlide in cleats to master the feet-first slide on a scramble. Says Zorn of hiseager 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 long Zorn sticks arounddepends on how well his quarterback responds to instruction. Given theRedskins' limited commitment and simmering interest in another brand-name coach(namely, the currently retired Bill Cowher), it's possible anything less thanthe playoffs could mean one and done for Zorn. "A lot of quarterbacks whoyou see make the Pro Bowl or have consistent seasons have been in the sameoffense for years," Campbell says. "Hopefully Coach Zorn will be herefor a minute so we can establish some growth."
PROJECTEDSTARTING LINEUP WITH 2007 STATISTICS COACH JIM ZORN (0--0 in NFL), first seasonwith Redskins
[This articlecontains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]
SACKS 2 1/2
SACKS 2 1/2
SACKS 10 1/2
2007 RECORD 9--7NFL RANK (Rush/Pass/Total): OFFENSE 12/14/15 DEFENSE 4/16/8
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
(M) Monday (T) Thursday
NFL Rank: 14
Opponents' 2007 winning percentage: .523
Games against playoff teams: 6
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EXCERPTED FROM SI November 6, 1972
IF THERE is anyone who does not know how to have agood time, it is not George Allen's fault. On the plane home from away games,the players sing. They call Allen "Ice Cream," and the words to one oftheir favorite numbers are "Hooray for Ice Cream, Hooray at last, Hoorayfor Ice Cream, He's a horse's ass." Allen just smiles benignly upon thechoral group. --Roy Blount
Free access to all REDSKINS stories and photographs from the SI archives, plusvideo clips.
SI.com's NFL personnel expert Michael Lombardievaluates the Redskins' units.
Despite change around him, Campbell continues to progress.
Portis is still a strong No. 1; Ladell Betts, a competent backup.
A rookie—Devin Thomas or Malcom Kelly—must produce.
Cooley's an effective pass catcher, Fred Davis is the blocker.
Lack of depth means injuries could hurt this aging unit.
Taylor really boosts the rush, but Griffin in the middle is the key.
Solid and smart all around, starting with 10th-year vet Fletcher.
Rogers's play at corner will make or break the secondary.
Serviceable kicking; return units could be more consistent.
Jason Taylor DEFENSIVE END
The Skins' big acquisition figures to significantlyimprove the pass rush of the league's No. 4 defense. Taylor, the NFL leader insacks this decade, moves from his usual blind-side spot to the left but will bedoing a lot of flip-flopping with bookend Andre Carter, who quietly had 10 1/2sacks. "We're very flexible," says defensive coordinator GregBlache.