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Zorn Needs Campbell to Take the Next Step


At some point, Jason Campbell, who has started 36 games over the past three seasons, has to make his move from young talent into fully fledged NFL quarterback.

In the Redskins' season finale at at San Francisco's Candlestick Park, Campbell showed glimpses of doing just that.


Head coach Jim Zorn has to be hoping that the way Campbell rallied his team in the fourth quarter of the 49ers game has a carryover effect.

With the Redskins trailing the 49ers 24-17 with 4:57 left, Campbell hit Chris Cooley twice and Santana Moss once for clutch gains.

Campbell's 23-yard scramble to the San Francisco 10 with 3:00 left was a determined effort. It was topped only by his 2-yard dash for a touchdown on fourth down with 1:15 left.

The 49ers would go on to win the game 27-24 on Joe Nedney's 39-yard field goal at the end of regulation.

Still, Zorn was encouraged by Campbell's performance following a season that its share of ups and downs.

He remains committed to Campbell as his starting quarterback for next season.

"He stayed in there mentally," Zorn said of the game-tying drive. "I was on him to stay in there mentally, and he did. He threw the ball accurately, read [the defense] well. Jason had a great effort on some of the runs that he made. Smart runs. Competitive runs. It kept us in the ball game. He made some very good decisions, very good throws. I'm very proud of what he did."

Of the issues facing the Redskins as they begin to think about 2009, Campbell has to be at or near the top of the list.

Does he have what it takes to play consistent football, provide leadership at the vital position, and take a solid step forward in the ranks of the NFL's quarterback fraternity?

He has done all of the above since earning his first NFL start at Tampa Bay in November of 2006.

It's just that he hasn't done enough of them as frequently and as consistently as the position perhaps demands.

Campbell is the quarterback Zorn inherited when he made the sudden move from quarterbacks coach in Seattle to offensive coordinator and then head coach in Washington.

Zorn expects to w0rk with Campbell one on one this offseason, both in the classroom and on the practice fields at Redskins Park, just like he did last offseason.

"His footwork was poor when I got here last [offseason]," Zorn said. "It got a lot better and I think everybody would agree with that. It's going to get even better this offseason. There are things I'm going to ask him to do, to work on."

He added: "I want to him to continue playing lower, being able to have great rhythm at the top of the drop. When he plants that foot, coming forward and letting the ball go, I want to improve that. We'll work on drills that enhance that."

Campbell, of course, is banking on the fact that he won't have to learn a new offense this offseason, something he has had to do three of four seasons in the NFL.

"It will give me and Coach Zorn the opportunity to go back and watch a lot of things on film and see what things we need to adjust for next season," the quarterback said. "We intend to do it together, so we can see what we need to improve on offensively, so we can score more points. We need to be the big threat that we were early in the season and maintain that throughout the whole season."

Overall, the Redskins scored just 265 points this year. That's three less than 0-16 Detroit and 28th in the NFL. It's a surprising stat, given that the Redskins had four offensive Pro Bowlers.

Campbell finished the season with 315-of-506 completions for 3,145 yards, 13 touchdowns and six interceptions. His QB rating was 84.3, 19th best in the league.

Asked if he felt comfortable in Zorn's offense, Campbell said: "I feel comfortable. I think we need to develop more of a downfield attack this offseason to put more pressure on teams. Overall, I feel comfortable with everything as far as making the reads, making the drops and getting the ball out."

Another year with Zorn should help everyone on the offensive side of the ball, Campbell said.

"The main thing we have to understand in the offseason is that we have to prepare," he said. "Coach Zorn was in his first year as a head coach last season, so this offseason he will adjust as far as how we approach games and what we do practice-wise.

"For players, it's an opportunity for us to come back as a stronger team after all of this and understand that we can be a really good team. We showed it early in the year. We just have to show it all 16 games and play at a high level each and every week. It's tough because you play a lot of tough teams and you get injuries, but we have to try to push through those things and continue to fight."

Zorn said Monday that he's looking for ways to improve the entire offense for 2009, including the quarterback position. He said the West Coast system is sound and praised the work of offensive assistant Chris Meidt, who works with Campbell and the quarterbacks.

Zorn went on to say that he will stay involved in coaching the quarterbacks as well as calling the plays in 2009.

"We got better at the quarterback position as this season went along," Zorn maintained. "We'll get better at the quarterback position this offseason so you'll see the results next year."

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