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Campbell: A Little Help From His Friends

Mark Brunell pulled Jason Campbell aside this week to tell him the tale of his first NFL start.

It was Sept. 17, 1995, and Brunell, then quarterback for Jacksonville, was befuddled after completing 15-of-33 passes for 138 yards, one touchdown, one interception and five sacks in the Jaguars' 27-10 loss to the New York Jets at the Meadowlands.

"I told him, 'Listen, no matter how it goes on Sunday, you will do better than I did on my first start,'" Brunell said. "It was horrible. I was all over the place."

Brunell, of course, guided the Jaguars to the AFC Championship game one year later. That's how quickly it can turn for an NFL quarterback.

And that's the message Brunell imparted to Campbell: if you struggle, keep battling and things will turn around.

"I think the guys around him are going to step their game up and I expect Jason to play well," Brunell said.

All week long, players have stepped up to help Campbell as he adjusts to life as a starting quarterback in the NFL.

"Mark and Todd [Collins] have been very supportive," Campbell said. "They've sat me down and talked with me. They've said they are behind me 100 percent. They understand that I am at the beginning of my career and they want to do help me get started off on the right foot.

"Mark has been trying to calm me down and get me relaxed. These are all great guys. All the veterans, the offensive, receivers, running backs, even defensive players--they're all behind me."

Speaking of defensive players, cornerback Carlos Rogers is perhaps the proudest Redskin who wants to see Campbell get his chance.

Rogers and Campbell were teammates at Auburn from 2001-04 and were both drafted by the Redskins in the first round of the 2005 NFL Draft. Rogers was selected ninth overall and Campbell was 25th.

While Campbell sat and watched as the Redskins' third quarterback since joining the Redskins, Rogers started five games--plus two postseason games--last season. He has been a regular starter this season.

"I'm real excited for Jason," Rogers said. "I just told him to keep his confidence. Things are going kind of bad for us around here right now, so hopefully he'll step up and help us turn this thing around.

"He's been watching me play since last year and I know he wants that opportunity. You don't want to see Mark benched, but at the same time, I want to see Jason out there, too."

On offense, Casey Rabach is at the center of it all, and since Monday he has worked closely with Campbell to make sure they are both on the same page in terms of snap cadence.

Rabach and the Redskins' pass protection units know they have to step up against a hard-hitting Tampa Bay defense that is known for its aggressiveness in pressuring the quarterback.

"I think any defense would try to pressure a young quarterback," Rabach said. "It just falls on us up front to protect him and do our job. We're a veteran group up front and we understand the game. We just have to keep him clean and let him do his thing back there."

The wide receiver corps is an experienced group, and that should with Campbell's adjustment.

Since September, Campbell has worked on the scout team with young practice squad receivers Mike Espy and Steven Harris. Now it's starters Santana Moss, Brandon Lloyd, Antwaan Randle El, James Thrash and David Patten.

They all must develop a rhythm with Campbell and adjust to his throwing motion and ability to scramble.

"We're going to be where we need to be and Jason needs to be able to trust us, because he has a lot on his plate," Lloyd said. "He doesn't need us to tell him when and where to throw the ball. I'm going to be where I need to be and let him have confidence in me."

Tampa Bay's defense has slipped to 24th in the NFL and 24th in rushing defense. That could mean a heavy dose of Ladell Betts and T.J. Duckett, replacing injured starter Clinton Portis, on Sunday.

When Campbell drops back to pass, he will face a defense that has struggled to record sacks this season--the Bucs are ranked last in the NFL in sacks per pass play.

The secondary, famous for establishing the Cover 2 defensive sceheme, is an experienced group led by cornerback Ronde Barber. Tampa Bay is ranked 17th overall in the NFL in pass defense.

Despite the defensive struggles, head coach Joe Gibbs sees a defense that is "blasting people."

"If you watch them, their secondary has some of the best hitters," Gibbs said. "I think they know exactly what they are doing. They have mature players who are quick and fast. Their style of play gives you a lot of problems. They give you tons of looks. You never get the same look twice. They have safeties dropping from all over the place. Certainly, it'll be a real challenge for Jason."

As a cornerback, Shawn Springs has been in Campbell's ear helping prepare him for the looks he'll see from Tampa Bay.

"The most valuable thing I tell Jason is to just be comfortable and be patient," Springs said. "You have to understand you're playing against Tampa, and while you're going to have opportunities to make plays, they're a well-disciplined defense.

"You have to take what they give you. If they give you the flat, you have to take it. Don't try to force it against those guys. If anything bad happens, just keep working."

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