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Campbell's Top Task: Reading the Pressure


Jason Campbell approached the line of scrimmage last Sunday and scanned the Miami Dolphins' defensive formation.

It was 3rd-and-7 in overtime, and Campbell figured a blitz was coming.

He was right.

Campbell identified the blitz, coming from the left side of the Dolphins' defensive line, and went through his check-downs. He had tight end Chris Cooley to his right as an option.

Campbell took three steps back and fired a pass to Cooley, who found open space vacated by Miami's blitzers, for a 10-yard pickup to the Dolphins' 47-yard line.

It was a critical play on the Redskins' game-winning drive. Four plays later, Shaun Suisham kicked a 39-yard field goal to give Washington a 16-13 season-opening win.

The good news is that Campbell showed he can recognize the blitz at the line of scrimmage and react accordingly--something that's not always easy for young quarterbacks to do.

"Cooley came up big on his catch in overtime," Campbell said, giving the credit to the Redskins' fourth-year tight end. "If we didn't get it, they would get the ball back. They blitzed, and he was able to make the catch and get the first down.

"It's the little things that stand out, not always the deep throws. Sometimes it's the little throws that make the difference."

Of course, the bad news for Campbell is that there could be plenty more blitzes coming his way on Monday night in Philadelphia.

The Eagles' defense has been known for aggressive blitzing for years. Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson is sure to test Campbell often. His forte is blitzing in the red zone where the offense has a limited field to work with.

"[Johnson] has been there a long time, and they're aggressive, they blitz, they give you a lot of problems," head coach Joe Gibbs said. "They like to give you a lot of different looks. They have a lot of packages.

"The other thing is they're extremely well coached. In our [game film], you can see certain formations they play one way, certain formations they play totally different."

That means Campbell will have to be on his toes-- literally.

He'll need to make the right read at the line of scrimmage, go through his check-downs and, when necessary, use his mobility to escape pressure.

Campbell certainly remembers last year's Week 14 contest against Philadelphia at FedExFIeld. With the Redskins trailing 21-16 late in the fourth quarter, he faced a 3rd-and-goal at the Eagles' 8-yard line.

He dropped back to pass and started to roll right, away from pressure. Blitzing safety Brian Dawkins caught up to him and pulled him down for a sack. The Redskins settled for a field goal in what turned out to be a 21-19 defeat.

On Monday night, the Eagles will be without Pro Bowl cornerback Lito Sheppard, who has a knee injury. He'll be replaced by seven-year veteran William James.

Sheppard's absence could limit the number of blitz packages that Johnson uses on Monday night. Blitzes require defensive backs to be one-on-one with receivers, and Johnson may be less inclined to blitz knowing that his secondary is not at full strength.

The Redskins will have to prepare for either approach.

"They still have experienced players," Campbell said. "You have someone like Dawkins who has been in the game a long time playing safety. He does a great job of getting everyone in place and all the positions they need to be in to be in the right spot."

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