None of Jason Campbell's previous 10 starts for the Redskins put as much pressure on him as last week's against the Lions. The third-year QB had lost his right guard and right tackle to injury in the first month, and new wideouts Keenan McCardell and Reche Caldwell were still being worked into the offense. Even so, Campbell was instructed to bleed the clock and play keep-away from Detroit's high-powered attack. What's more, associate head coach Al Saunders told Campbell, a 53% career passer, that this was the time to start making progress toward becoming a 62% passer, the team's goal for the '05 first-rounder. "Your accuracy has to control this game," Saunders said to him.
Campbell (right) is a good listener. He engineered clock-eating drives of 12, 14 and 10 plays in the first 38 minutes, and for the game completed 23 of 29 passes for a career-best 79%, with no turnovers. Drafted as a downfield passing threat, the physical 6'5" Campbell instead executed a dink-and-dunk game as if he were a Bill Walsh protégé, and the Skins routed the Lions 34--3, to improve to 3--1.
Campbell sets up quicker in the pocket than he did at Auburn, and Saunders has streamlined his windup. "Learning from [former starter] Mark Brunell was crucial for me, and the Redskins never put any pressure on me to play before I was ready," says Campbell. "I feel confident now that I can execute whatever they ask me to."
As much as anything, Campbell is playing with presence. Not much fazes him, and as the son of a high school coach he wouldn't show it even if he were confused. On Monday, Saunders met with Campbell to begin preparing to face Brett Favre and the Packers at Lambeau. Saunders said Campbell wouldn't be cowed by his opponent or the stage. "I told him, 'You played one good one,'" Saunders said. "'But you've got to follow it up with another. The great quarterbacks are consistent.'" Campbell could be on his way there.
JEFF FISHBEIN/ICON SMI (CAMPBELL)