| 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 new
concepts, and the Redskins quarterback has been hit with plenty over the last
seven seasons. Dating to his freshman year at Auburn, he had to learn six
offensive systems because of a near-constant turnover of coordinators and
quarterbacks coaches. Campbell is practically starting from scratch yet again
with new coach Jim Zorn, the longtime tutor of Seahawks quarterbacks who brings
a West Coast-style offense to Washington. Zorn was hired by owner Dan Snyder in
February as offensive coordinator, then was promoted to coach after the Skins
failed 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 time
he ran a version of the West Coast, in his senior year at Auburn, he set the
school's season record for completion percentage (64.6%) while leading the
Tigers to a 13-0 record. And last year Campbell took another step
forward as the Redskins' starter, completing 60.0% of his passes for 2,700 yards
and 12 touchdowns before his season abruptly ended when he dislocated his left
kneecap in Week 14. Journeyman Todd Collins, 36, who hadn't thrown a
meaningful pass in 10 years, stepped in and reeled off four straight wins to
help Washington make the playoffs, but Zorn's first move as coach was to quash
any QB controversy and pronounce Campbell his starter.
A nimble pocket passer with a strong arm and a quick, compact release, the
6' 5", 230-pound Campbell is an ideal fit for Zorn's system, which
emphasizes timing and tempo over presnap shifting and postsnap trickery, both of
which were nettlesome hallmarks of former coordinator Don Breaux's offense.
Receivers were also frustrated by a system that depended heavily on matchups at
the line of scrimmage, according them fewer options. "Last year it all depended
on coverages," says Pro Bowl tight end Chris Cooley. "If your matchup wasn't
there, you were running to get someone else open. This year it's up to us to get
open and make it work."
Given the responsibility on Campbell to keep the offense efficient, the
quarterback has been under intense scrutiny from Zorn, who scolds him for
everything from the height at which he takes the snap from under center -- "Jason
is much more explosive when he's playing lower," Zorn says -- to the distance his
off hand travels when he pats the ball before a throw, a habit Zorn hopes to
stamp 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. If
Jason doesn't pat, the DB gets there a little bit later."
To further refine Campbell's already smooth mechanics, Zorn has subjected the
passer to a range of unconventional drills of his own invention. He has pelted
his QB with large exercise balls (meant to represent onrushing linemen) to teach
him how to move better in the pocket under duress; bombarded him with blocking
pads when he's looking downfield to steel his focus; and even sent him skidding
down 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 be
To achieve that, Campbell will need stability at the top. And just how long
Zorn sticks around depends on how well his quarterback responds to instruction.
Given the Redskins' limited commitment and simmering interest in another
brand-name coach (namely, the currently retired Bill Cowher), it's possible
anything less than the playoffs could mean one and done for Zorn. "A lot of
quarterbacks who you see make the Pro Bowl or have consistent seasons have been
in the same offense for years," Campbell says. "Hopefully Coach Zorn will be
here for a minute so we can establish some growth." -- Andrew