July 24, 2008

Skins Offense Must Step Up In 2008

The Washington Redskins have long been plagued by offensive futility. Be it injuries, coaching changes, or just a plain lack of talent, points haven't come too easily for the 'Skins over the past decade or so.

Former coach Joe Gibbs was able to generate some offensive success during his second tenure, but inconsistency really hampered development. I often got the feeling that he was constantly overthinking and outsmarting himself.

First halves for Gibbs usually went smoothly. Last season, Washington led at the half in several games and then went on to lose due to conservative play-calling. Al Saunders never opened his playbook past page one, and the offense struggled to move the ball.

Jason Campbell was never handed the full reigns over his team or the playbook, which proved to be a serious error in judgment. Young quarterbacks learn from their mistakes, but Campbell always made his at the most inopportune times due to the fact that the coaching staff botched leads, resulting in putting all the pressure on Campbell.

So at one moment, Campbell was given almost no control, but then in the next, everything was expected of him. That certainly is not fair. The correct way to develop a quarterback is to gradually depend on him, little by little, to run the show.

The incorrect way would be to thrust the entire game on his shoulders after you display no trust in him throughout the first three quarters.

Joe Gibbs should have known better than to do this to his young quarterback.

However, new coach Jim Zorn has made it quite clear that this is now Campbell's team; something Gibbs never emphasized. Campbell will get to make his throws this season and will not be limited by the staff. Zorn cast his vote of confidence in Campbell's direction when he told the media that Campbell would start the season, regardless of the performance of backup Todd Collins, who is coming off a very strong 2007 season.

That is the kind of thing a young quarterback needs to hear. When a new head coach comes to town, bringing a new offense in the process, a young QB likes to hear that he will be the leader. This statement will be a nice shot in the arm for Campbell.

However, giving him the reigns doesn't mean all is well. Execution must improve tenfold. Receivers were plagued by drops last year, and careless turnovers occurred every week. Zorn must review these tendencies and cut down on them in training camp to ensure a cleaner performance on gameday.

Zorn's offense will be much better tailored to Clinton Portis and Campbell. Portis has gushed about Zorn's rushing attack, saying that he was "running into a brick wall of players" with Gibbs, and that this new system will allow him to exhibit his speed and elusiveness.

Meanwhile, Campbell will be learning an offense similar to the one he ran at Auburn the year he went undefeated. He has big receivers in Malcolm Kelly, Fred Davis, and Devin Thomas, and he has already established some chemistry with Chris Cooley, Antwaan Randle El, and Santana Moss.

Zorn's offense is very up-tempo and quick, which was not exactly what one might label Gibbs' offense.

"Once we get to the line of scrimmage, we are going," Campbell told Comcast SportsNet.

This change of pace should help get the offense comfortable with the flow of the game, as they seemed to be going through the motions for much of last season. They have to learn how to simply play the game without thinking so much.

Guard Randy Thomas is aware, though, that whatever changes the offense undergoes, the bottom line remains the same: score points.

"I don't care if [Campbell] has to drop back ten steps," said Thomas, referring to the shorter dropbacks Zorn uses, "we just need to score points."

Indeed you do, Randy.

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