With a 7-4 start the Washington Redskins find themselves in second place in the tough NFC east and in prime position as the NFL playoffs near. The season for the Redskins began with several questions, including how the Redskins would transition from Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs to the relatively unknown Seattle quarterback coach in Jim Zorn.
And to the surprise of many outsiders, the transition between coaches has been somewhat smooth. Much of this season’s success can be attested to the on and off the field leadership of players like middle linebacker London Fletcher and running back Clinton Portis. But, one factor in the season’s success that tends to be over looked by many has been the stellar play of young quarterback Jason Campbell.
Jason Campbell is entering his fourth season in the NFL and his third as a full-time starter in Washington. Under the leadership of new coach Jim Zorn, Jason in many ways is having his most successful season as a NFL quarterback. A lot of his success can be credited to Zorn’s hand on approach.
Zorn, a former NFL quarterback in his own right is also credited with developing Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Hasselbeck during the time he spent in Seattle. This offseason, Zorn implemented an entire new pass game which became Campbell’s eighth offensive system in as many years.
But, while many coaches in the league would have tied the hands of their young quarterback in a new offensive system, (e.g. Al Saunders when he was offensive coordinator for the Redskins in 2006-'07) Jim Zorn allowed for Jason’s growth with trust in his quarterbacks judgment and a rare assortment of drills.
During camp, Campbell could be seen dodging tackling dummies, as well as tennis balls to simulate how to avoid pressure. He would then be asked to deliver the pass to a receiver stationed downfield to simulate a receiver breaking open during a scramble. On many occasions, this drill has paid off in full for the Redskins.
With the development of Jason Campbell, the Redskins offense has also been much more consistent this season. Clinton Portis is having his best season as a Washington Redskins as he leads the NFL in rushing yards with 1,206.
Clinton’s success can be pointed to the fact that teams can no longer stack the box with seven and eight players to shut down the run. In previous years, teams did not respect the Redskins' downfield attack in the pass game and were able to load up the box on Portis.
Last season, when Todd Collins took over for the injured Campbell the Redskins surprised teams. Collins was very effect finding the underneath routes but never effectively stretched the defense with down the field passes.
The Redskins’ luck ran out in the postseason however. The Seattle Seahawks took away the underneath routes from the offense and the offense became stagnant.
The deep ball is something Jason Campbell has had success throwing. On several occasions this season Jason Campbell has hooked up with Chris Cooley, Santana Moss or Antwan Randel El for a big completion.
In order for Portis and the Redskins to continue to have success, Jason Campbell must continue to make good decisions with the football and aggressively throw the ball down the field and attack the defense.
With only five games left to play before the playoffs begin, Jason Campbell and the Redskins offense will have some tough test to pass. They have road games against the Ravens, Bengals, and the 49ers. They also still must face NFC east foe the Philadelphia Eagles. But there is no bigger game than this week’s showdown at FedEx Field versus the New York Giants.
The Redskins can ill-afford to fall to 7-5 and four games behind the Giants for the division lead and in all likelihood a game behind the Dallas Cowboys for a Wild Card berth. The Giants come into the game with a record of 10-1 and one of the league’s toughest defenses.
In order for the Redskins to have success they must handle the Giants’ front seven and remain turnover free. The Giants will look to shut down the run. This will add more pressure to Campbell being efficient. If he plays as well as he has progressed, the Redskins can find themselves in prime striking position as the playoffs near.
With the season winding down the Washington Redskins could not have asked for a better start to their season. They have put themselves in position to have success and make the playoffs. When the season began, this team was being overlooked and predicted to have a top 10 draft pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.
But, with Jason Campbell’s success as a passer, Clinton Portis’ Pro Bowl season running the football and the stellar play of the defense; the Redskins have turned out to be one of the most dangerous teams in football.
They are a hungry team with playoff aspirations.
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