Sports

Picking Splinters: Campbell Finds Self in Redskins’ Soup

Yesterday, Washington Redskins Executive Vice President of Football Operations Vinny Cerrato told the Washington Post that the team would not sign troubled free agent quarterback Michael Vick. Congratulations, Jason Campbell! There actually is someone the team wants behind center less than you.

It sure didn’t feel that way earlier in the offseason, when the team had dalliances with Jay Cutler and draft pick Mark Sanchez. Back then it felt like the Redskins were sending a clear message: Anyone but Campbell.

But now camp is starting up and, seemingly to the ‘Skins’ chagrin, J.C. is still taking snaps. Campbell, on the other hand, is making the best of a bad situation. He says he’ll be more vocal, more of a leader in camp and during the season. He will have to be, considering the team has done its best to strip away all confidence from teammates in their starting quarterback.

As detailed in Wednesday’s story by the Post’s Jason Reid, Daniel Snyder called a meeting in April with Jason Campbell to clear the air after the Cutler fiasco and let his top QB know that he needed to be more of a leader. Then he tried to replace him with a rookie in Mark Sanchez, only to be thwarted by the Jets. How’s that for a vote of confidence?

And actions like that speak far louder than the shallow “Jason Campbell is our quarterback”-statements you’re sure to hear over training camp. This is the last season for Campbell under contract in Washington. And it will likely be his last season unless he produces. So now you have an apparent short term QB who management clearly doesn’t believe in. So … Why should the rest of this team listen to him again?

The tragic thing is I don’t believe this predicament is at all Campbell’s fault.

The Redskins allowed the fourth-most sacks in the NFL last season, and anyone who watched the ‘Skins’ final few games knew that the time Campbell could be counted on one hand … in milliseconds. With no time to deliver the football, and often with double coverage on his top receiver, how is Campbell supposed to be effective? How is he supposed to be the “franchise quarterback” that Snyder “wants” him to become?

Heck, given the pressure from defenses, if you look at Campbell’s stats you might be impressed. Sure, there are just 13 passing touchdowns, but there were also just six interceptions, by far the fewest for a QB sacked over 35 times last season.

But that won’t console Snyder. He, in his infinite wisdom, knows better. After all, he’s demonstrated as much by piecing together teams that have made the playoffs a whole three times in his 10 years as owner. He knows line play is overrated. He knows that you just need flashy free agent receivers to succeed. You don’t need silly people like offensive linemen. Heck, those guys don’t even touch the ball!

Unfortunately for Snyder, any football coach will tell you that the game is won an lost in the trenches. And while teams like the Giants and Cowboys flaunt QB protection like the front lines of Fort Knox, it feels like the ‘Skins are fighting back pass rushers with Nerf swords and loud noises.

Two Super Bowls ago, the Giants definitely proved the way to shut down any passing game was by getting pressure on the quarterback. If you don’t give him time to throw, even if he’s Tom Brady, he’s going to struggle. It increases bad decisions by the passer, it reduces the amount of time your defensive backs have to stick with opposing receivers and it always disrupts the strategy of the offense.

On one hand, the Redskins seem to understand this, drafting pass rusher Brian Orakpo and signing DT Albert Haynesworth in the offseason. But that seems to be the only half of the equation that registers with the front office as the offensive line was left unaddressed.

Here we go again.

Keep your chin up, Jason. Perhaps try to convince your offensive line that you aren’t the only one under the gun this season. Try to get the ball out, quick and clean. And try not to pay attention when Dapper Dan inquires about a certain quarterback’s home phone number in Mississippi.

Brett Favre would look good in burgundy, wouldn’t he, Danny?