NFL: Redskins’ Zorn, Campbell off to shaky start
By Joseph White
ASHBURN, Va. ó Jason Campbell didn’t look at all comfortable in the Meadowlands, and neither did Jim Zorn.
Maybe they just aren’t meant for each other.
If they are, it’s going to take awhile to find out.
From quarterback indecision to poor clock management, the Washington Redskins were overmatched and overwhelmed for much of the night in Zorn’s coaching debut. While the regular season is kicking in for everyone else, the burgundy and gold still looked very much in preseason mode in Thursday night’s 16-7 loss to the New York Giants.
“It’s not just me; it’s everybody,” Campbell said Friday. “Hopefully the light’s going to come on quick for all of us, including the offensive coaches, and we build some kind of continuity and get trust going with each other, and get things going.”
Zorn criticized himself more than he picked on Campbell after reviewing the tape, but he left no doubt that the project of molding his drop-back quarterback into an efficient West Coast passer will take a bit longer than expected.
“He had enough minuses to know where he needs to improve,” Zorn said.
Campbell didn’t complete a pass until the final two minutes of the first half, when the score was already 16-0. The Redskins were outgained 241-51 in the half and didn’t have a drive last more than six plays until late in the fourth quarter. Campbell finished 15-for-27 for 133 yards with one touchdown, numbers that don’t come close to reflecting the offense’s struggles.
“He’ll have more improvement as he comes along, and he’s going to grow with this offense,” Zorn said. “I’m not discouraged from the total package, just certain issues.”
The issues are the same ones that surfaced during preseason, when the Redskins were outscored 71-6 over their final two games. Campbell sometimes locks in on one receiver, then holds the ball too long when that receiver is covered. He has yet to fully grasp the fast-paced rhythm of play Zorn wants to see. Zorn also said Campbell didn’t learn the lesson from a training camp drill and failed to “avoid, reset and throw” when he escaped a rusher and had Santana Moss open for a big play downfield.
Nevertheless, Zorn still believes Campbell can be a good fit for the offense.
“I think he’s got enough athleticism ó I really do ó to speed up his game in certain situations,” Zorn said. “And part of that I’m hoping is just the idea of understanding the offense better, the speed of it. He’s not there yet.”
Zorn cited Matt Hasselbeck, who had trouble making the adjustment when Zorn was quarterbacks coach with the Seattle Seahawks. Hasselbeck struggled so much that he temporarily lost his job to Trent Dilfer but has since been to three Pro Bowls.
“He was just wild and all over the place,” Zorn said. “And we couldn’t win.”
Campbell chimed in on the same theme, saying the Redskins were “not going to come out in the first game and look like the Seattle Seahawks,” but he admitted he thought he’d be further along the road by now.
“Yeah, it’s a little bit more bumpy,” Campbell said. “Of course, you’d like to come out and put up 28 and 35 each and every week. We’ve just got to adjust. We got a chance to see where we’re at in this first game.”
Zorn rapped on the podium as he talked about his first game of record, his frustrations coming through as he chided himself for some of his decisions. Zorn, who also calls the plays, said he lost track of the clock when he opted for a time-consuming running play with his team trailing by nine late in the game.
“I didn’t quite punch myself in the face this morning, but I was angry with myself,” Zorn said.
For that matter, Zorn agrees with the fans who were screaming at their televisions because the Redskins didn’t go with the no-huddle offense on that drive.
“I probably wasted a minute of the game,” Zorn said. “I’d love to have that opportunity back again.”
Many in the locker room echoed the notion that the Zorn era is a work in progress and that one could hardly have expected an efficient offense in the first game.
At least one veteran, however, begged to differ.
“We all know that it’s no excuses,” receiver Antwaan Randle El said. “We’ve had chances at the learning curve in preseason, training camp, that kind of thing. So we all need to be over that and be ready to go.”
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