The word I've been getting out of Redskins Park is that Jason Campbell has been struggling somewhat while trying to pick up Jim Zorn's offense.
That's not what I saw today.
Campbell was very sharp in the morning session. On swing passes, he hit backs in perfect stride. While he didn't hit on every long pass, every one of them was a well-placed rainbow, aimed at the outside shoulder of the receiver.
The most impressive pass of the day, however, was his last. He fired downfield to Antwaan Randle El. The pass eluded the outstretched hands of a couple of defenders and found Randle El in the crowd.
The fourth year QB unbuttoned his chin strap, pushed up his helmet, and made a slight nod towards Randle El as the horn sounded to end practice.
Now, I did note that the offense wasn't running particularly complex plays. It's possible the Jim Zorn designed the practice to give Campbell a confidence boost. There weren't many of the inside slant patterns that require absolute precision to hit the receiver in stride. It was Football Passing 101 for the most part.
Still, Campbell had to execute and he did.
The pressure on Campbell to perform ticked up a notch last Sunday. When the Redskins made the trade for 33-year-old defensive end Jason Taylor, giving up a second-round pick and over $8 million in salary cap money in the process, the signal was unmistakable—the organization isn't going to take a mulligan this year. They aren't writing off 2008 due to the presence of Zorn and the fact that Campbell has to learn his third new offense in four NFL seasons. The new coach is expected to get his quarterback up to speed by September 4. Period.
Campbell has two years left on his rookie contact. There has been little talk about an extension since the Redskins really don't know what they have in Campbell at this point. They'd like to write him out a nice, fat bonus check along the lines of the ones that Tony Romo and Marc Bulger received in the past year. But they don't yet know if he's worth it.
And Campbell would like to cash that check but he knows that he has to earn it.
If he has more practices like today's, and if he can translate those practices into solid performances in games, he'll get that chance.
Edit: After I wrote this, I wandered by the official Redskins blog and Matt Terl had posted a transcript of an interview he had with Peter King of Sports Illustrated, who was out at Redskins Park today. Among other topics, the subject of Campbell's practice today came up:
Terl: Okay. Finally: tell us something you saw at camp today that's not going to make it into your Postcard From Camp, but that Redskins fans would want to know.
King: I'll tell you something that IS going to make it into my postcard: I thought Jason Campbell had one of the best camp practices I've ever seen a quarterback have.
I mean, if he had four balls hit the ground in two hours, I'll be surprised. I mean, the touch on this passes, his accuracy downfield, I was highly, highly impressed.
Now, I've seen him a few times over the years, and I've thought he's okay, but I never saw him like I saw him today.
Not that I'm so insecure as to need affirmation of my analysis from a pretty well-respected writer, but it doesn't hurt.