Friday’s 27-24 defeat to the New England Patriots could be looked at as a downer for the Washington Redskins. But it’s preseason so of course we don’t focus on such things. The only thing that matters in preseason is performance: who’s playing well and who stinks. The offense had been smelling pretty rotten before Friday but they bounced back in a major way. Here are three things I took away from this weekend’s game.
Jason Campbell is a pretty tough guy. No, not the leather jacket, muscle car riding, t-shirt kind of guy but the even-though-you-criticize-me-I’m-still-going-to-do-my-job-kind-of-guy. Campbell has been under fire for the last three seasons in D.C. Attempts to bring in Jay Cutler and Mark Sanchez over the offseason only solidified the team’s discontent with the former Auburn Tiger, but Campbell never says the wrong things. Unlike Cutler, who pouted his way out of Denver, Campbell remains a professional. His struggles through the first couple of weeks against the Ravens and Steelers could easily be excused, but critics are hungry for anything they can use to usher Campbell out of the district.
Campbell redeemed himself against the Patriots’ complex 3-4 scheme. Appearing poised and confident, Campbell showed arm strength, proper decision making and the leadership that should earn him big dollars next year. If he can transfer his production into the regular season, some quarterback-starved team is going to come calling at the end of the ’09 campaign.
Campbell will turn 28 this December and is set to enter the prime of his career. Obviously he has the mental toughness after a few wacky years in Washington. He has the arm strength and he has the poise and professionalism. If the Redskins don’t want that, there are several other teams that do.
The Redskin defense struggled against the Pats, but a lot of teams struggled against New England the last time Tom Brady and Randy Moss were on the field together. Lock down corner Carlos Rogers didn’t play and that left DeAngelo Hall as the lone talent to go up against Moss, who responded with a six-catch, 90 yard, two-touchdown game before the half. I can’t get down on the Redskins for their performance Friday. New England had a record breaking offense in ’07 and one preseason game doesn’t scratch off Washington from the top defense list.
The pass rush looked ineffective on Friday but Brady gets the ball out quick. Nevertheless, the Washington defense is going to be good this year. If rookie Brian Orakpo and newly acquired Albert Haynesworth play up to expectations, the Redskins are going to be a tough unit. Thankfully, they don’t play New England this season and if they do see the Pats again, it would be in the Super Bowl, which should give Washington plenty of time to figure out what they did wrong last Friday.
The passing game looked good. Santana Moss made some tough grabs, Malcolm Kelly continued to show progression and Chris Cooley had the play of the game with a 73-yard catch and run. Kelly only caught one ball but he ran precise routes, caught the ball when it was thrown to him and showed some run after the catch ability on the lone ball he did haul in. Last year’s top pick Devin Thomas caught a few passes and even showed some spark on kick returns. A lot of folks are down on him but considering he didn’t start until his junior year at Michigan State suggests Thomas will have a way to go before he becomes a consistent threat.
All of Campbell’s receiving options stepped up Friday. Clinton Portis couldn’t really get anything going on the ground but it’s well known what Portis can do. The passing game is going to be the deciding factor in D.C. this season. Whether Campbell and the crew can get the aerial show up and running is going to mean postseason or offseason for Redskins. If they can continue to do what they did Friday, the postseason could be in the cards.