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Benching Campbell would be a big mistake

Benching Campbell would be a big mistake

Let's cut straight to the subject that's been buzzing around the message board and talk radio world:

Should Jason Campbell be benched?

Clearly, his performance has fallen off in the past seven games. After the first five games of the year Campbell's QB rating stood at a very respectable 100 and he hadn't thrown an interception. Now, he's at a mediocre 87.5 rating and he's thrown four picks. After five games, ESPN's Ron Jaworski said that he was a candidate for MVP. Now people are saying he's the main reason the offense has been MIA.

So that has board posters and talk show callers calling for Campbell to be replaced. Put in Todd Collins, look what happened when he went in at this time last year. Put in Colt Brennan, look what he did in preseason. Do either one of those but get another guy for next year. Campbell can't make decisions, he holds the ball too long, he can't make the throws, he can't read defenses, he's not a leader.

It's important to note here that this outcry for Campbell's ouster is coming strictly from outside of Redskins Park. Usually when there is dissatisfaction among the players with the play of the quarterback, some off-the-record comments will be made to some of the media types. I have checked with a couple of reporters who are out in Ashburn frequently and they both told me that there has been no grumbling about benching Campbell.

Let me repeat, none. Zip. Zilch. Zero. Nada. Not a whisper, not a grunt.

Now, I'm not going to go and try to put lipstick on the pig that has been the Redskins offense over the past month and a half or try to minimize Campbell's role in it. A grand total of two touchdowns in three big November home games speaks for itself. The quarterback takes the snaps, he runs the show, and he gets Miss DC. A lot of it is on him.

But it's not all on him, and that's one of the two points I want to make here. This offense is not a well-oiled machine just needed a stud quarterback to take the wheel. Dropped passes, ill-timed penalties and missed blocks are problems that I can see with my own two eyes.

Yesterday, Jim Zorn went into detail about how Antwaan Randle El ran an 11-yard pattern when he should have run an eight-yard pattern. That made Campbell's throw appear to be low when it was exactly where it should have been. Instead of being to turn around and easily take a couple of steps for a first down, Randle El was touched down short of the first.

The second point to make here is directed at those of you who point to Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco and say, see, it shouldn't matter that Campbell is learning a new offense, these guys can step right out of college and get it done.

Yes, Flacco and Ryan are having good years. That's no guarantee that either of them will be good quarterbacks in the NFL for a long time. Did you ever hear of Daunte Culpepper? The learning curve is different for all quarterbacks. Let's look down the list of the top QB's in terms of rating and see how their careers have unfolded:

  1. Tony Romo—Did not throw a pass for almost three and a half years before bursting onto the scene.
  2. Phillip Rivers—Drafted high, did not play much for two years, has been good but not great in three years as a starter.
  3. Kurt Warner—Couldn't make it out of college, played Arena League, bagged groceries, made the Rams as a backup, got his chance due to injury, won two MVP's, declined, nobody wanted him, now back as an unquestioned starter.
  4. Drew Brees—Played in one game as a rookie, posted QB ratings of 76.9 and 67.5 in his first two years starting, had two great years with the Chargers, was allowed to leave as a free agent in favor of Rivers, has had two and a half stellar years in New Orleans.
  5. Chad Pennington—Played little in his first two years with the Jets, then broke out in his third year, has been steady if unspectacular since then.
  6. Jeff Garcia—Canadian League, made the Pro Bowl in San Francisco, bounced to the Lions and Browns, both of whom had major QB issues, to the Eagles where he took over for an injured McNabb and led them to the playoffs, to Tampa Bay.

I defy you to find a pattern there and tell me where Campbell "should" be at this stage of his career. No, he hasn't shown a steady progression from game one as a starter through yesterday, his 32nd game behind center. But neither did most of the guys listed above, or many other solid starters around the league.

Take the quarterbacks of the last two teams the Redskins have faced. Matt Hasselbeck, under the coaching of Jim Zorn in Seattle, had many fits and starts with the Seahawks. Then, in 2005, he got it. A year later the Seahawks were in the Super Bowl and may well have won it if not for some strange officiating calls.

And Eli Manning seemed to be completely lost as late December of last year. Nobody in NFL history has thrown more incompletions in a game than he did against the Redskins in the Meadowlands in Week 15 of 2007. A few weeks before that, he'd thrown four interceptions in an ugly loss to the Vikings. His demeanor was way too laid back. He's now wearing a Super Bowl ring.

Not that all of this means that it's a slam dunk that Campbell will be leading a parade down Constitution Avenue holding a Lombardi Trophy this year or any time soon.

It does mean that there is a potential payoff in being patient, letting Campbell stay in there until he and the other 10 guys on offense are executing the offense the way it's supposed to be executed.

Sometimes to best way to change things is to make no changes at all. This is one of those times.

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Need to Know: Redskins’ Friday draft picks could be just as vital to success as first-rounder

Need to Know: Redskins’ Friday draft picks could be just as vital to success as first-rounder

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, April 23, four days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 10
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 31
—Training camp starts (7/27) 95
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 140

In search of someone, anyone, to stop the run

One of the areas the Redskins needed to improve last year was their rushing defense on first down. In 2015, they gave up 5.0 yards per carry on first down. That was the worst performance in the league. It’s pretty tough to play defense when a handoff makes it second and five. The Saints, who had a historically bad defense that year, were second, fiving up 4.8 yards a pop.

Well, it was no better for the Redskins defense in 2016. Again, they gave up 5.0 yards per carry on first down, again the worst performance in the league.  Remember, this is on first down, when teams are most likely to run.

The Redskins’ problems on third down were well known. They were dead last in the league allowing first downs on 46.6 percent of third-down attempts. For context, an average performance on third down is allowing about 38 percent and the best teams are around 35 percent.

That doesn’t tell the whole story, however. The Redskins weren’t very good at getting teams to third down. They allowed first downs on 33.8 percent of their opponents’ second-down plays. That put them in the bottom third of the league. Again, you don’t have to look too hard to connect the dots to link that back to the five yards per rushing play on first down. Second and five is a piece of cake most of the time.

You don’t need an advanced degree in statistical analysis to figure out that the Redskins defense isn’t going to get much better if they can’t stop teams from running the ball on first down.

It’s easy to point to the defensive line, which has not been very good, and say that the problem is there. That certainly has something to do with it. But the Redskins didn’t have a very good D-line in 2014 and they allowed 4.1 yards per first-down rushing attempt, a performance that was right at the league average.

The factor that was common in 2015 and 2016 and was different in 2014 was the defensive coordinator. It’s possible that opposing teams found a flaw to exploit in Joe Barry’s scheme that wasn’t there in Jim Haslett’s (which surely had flaws in other places).

But X’s and O’s can only get you so far. The Redskins will be looking to take a defensive lineman early and perhaps use an additional pick or two at the position later in the draft. While getting one who can rush the passer would be a plus, they need a run stuffer who can take snaps on first down and bottle up the ground game.

The focus in the draft will be on the first-round pick but, as has been discussed here many times, that pick is unlikely to be a defensive lineman. There isn’t likely to be one at 17 who would represent good value. That could mean that the Redskins’ second- or third-round pick, perhaps an interior lineman like Caleb Brantley of Florida, Larry Ogunjobi of Charlotte, or Montravius Adams of Auburn, is just as important to the team’s success as the first-round pick.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Mock drafts, cap bargains

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Mock drafts, cap bargains

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, April 22, five days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 20
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 32
—Training camp starts (7/27) 96
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 141

The Redskins week that was

Redskins full 2017 schedule released—Even with the Caps and Wizards in full playoff mode, the DMV stops to take a look and see when the Redskins will be playing. The Thanksgiving game was surprising. It’s another working day but I worked at various places since I was 14 and last year was the first time I’ve had to work on Thanksgiving so I can’t complain too much about working two in a row. It’s a small price to pay for having the best job in the world.

Don't count out any RB for Redskins at 17—Yeah, I know that NFL teams aren’t supposed to take running backs in the first round any more. But that is one of those trends that comes and goes. In 2013 and 2014 there were no RBs taken in the first. Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott in the last couple of years began to shift the thinking. If the Redskins think that Dalvin Cook or Christian McCaffrey can help them win games more than any other player on the board they should pull the trigger.

Rise of Patrick Mahomes could bring big payoff for Redskins—It seems likely that quarterbacks Deshaun Watson and Mitchell Trubisky will be taken before the Redskins pick at No. 17 goes on the clock. That means that two players in whom the Redskins might be interested will be available, pushed back by the quarter backs. Could Mahomes, out of Texas Tech, push a third player back to Washington. The buzz is that a team might grab him in the first half of the first round.

The Redskins' five best salary cap bargains for 2017—When I started pulling the numbers for this post I thought I’d find more key players with salaries of under $1 million. I only found three and one of them is the kicker. This means that they don’t have very many late-round or undrafted players who are contributing a lot of value. They need more out of players like Anthony Lanier, Matt Ioannidis and Maurice Harris. That is how a team thrives in the salary cap era. A couple of Saturday picks could make or break this draft.

Redskins mock 2.0 goes offense early, defense often—There are a lot of ways the first 16 picks of this draft can work out. It seems almost certain that everyone’s favorite first-round pick, a stud defensive lineman, won’t be a realistic option on the board. This could send things in an odd direction for the Redskins. It’s fun to do a mock and I’ll do one or two more prior to draft day but there are too many variables to think that it has a high degree of accuracy. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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