A lot of people seem to think there was a football game played at M&T Bank Stadium Thursday night. I’m not one of them.
Don’t worry. I’m not going to go on about NFL teams approaching preseason games so differently, and using them for such different purposes, that projecting any regular-season meaning onto them—final score or otherwise—is a straight waste of time.
And I won’t get into how these preseason affairs are glorified scrimmages at best, and at worst, slickly packaged, almost criminally overpriced hype passed off as “games” to a football-starved public.
Not today. Today I’m going to parse the only thing I had any real interest in (Brian Orakpo and no injuries notwithstanding) ... Redskins QB Jason Campbell and the offensive line’s performance on passing plays.
There were six. Here’s how I saw them:
1st-10, WAS 15. Ravens put four on the LOS. Redskins OL holds firm—no penetration. Campbell takes a 3-step drop, looks far right at Devin Thomas on a slant, short middle at Fred Davis, short middle left at Chris Cooley, then finally to Ladell Betts in the left flat. Four options. The OL is doing its job. Campbell might have chosen to go to Cooley at the first down marker (with a LB about a yard off left shoulder), but he chooses Betts instead, alone in the left flat with blockers. Campbell’s throw is on target as he leads Betts up field for 11 yards (-2 catch, 13 RAC).
Campbell and OL both solid.
2nd-9, WAS 27. Ravens put four on the LOS. Redskins OL holds firm—no penetration. Campbell takes a 5-step drop (play-action fake to Betts), then looks right side toward Thomas & Cooley. Thomas runs a skinny post, crossing with Cooley as he breaks toward the sideline. Campbell delivers on rhythm to Cooley for 11 (9 catch, 2 RAC).
Campbell and OL both solid.
1st-10, WAS 38. Ravens put four on the LOS. Campbell takes a 3-step drop, turns and throws immediately toward Thomas, who is 5-yards upfield on the left numbers. A LB is moving to cover Betts in the flat and crosses between Campbell and Thomas. Campbell appears to see him just as he’s releasing the ball and pulls the string a little. The ball sails high and skips off Thomas’ fingertips incomplete.
There was no apparent reason to rush throw given the protection—Campbell’s better option would have been Randle El, uncovered at the first down marker out of the left slot. Campbell dropped, turned and threw without any hesitation or seeming to find Thomas first; clearly throwing to a spot. Unless he was directed to throw that pass regardless of coverage, it’s a poor decision given the time to throw, the rushed and/or forced pass and missed opportunity for the likely first down attempt to ARE.
OL solid, Campbell questionable.
3rd-6, WAS 42. Ravens put four on the LOS. Campbell in shotgun, takes a 3-step drop. OL holds the DL, Samuels rides the RDE wide. Campbell looks right side to Cooley at first down marker, just coming out of his break. He starts to throw, then pulls it down. Cooley breaks open as Campbell steps up into pocket and looks away to the middle of the field. Ray Lewis closes, Betts lets him go, sliding in behind him into the open middle to provide an outlet. As Lewis gets to him, Campbell throws at the last instant, without stepping in (can't), going deep sideline to a wide-open Marques Hagans at the Ravens 28. Hagans leaps but the ball is inches high and off his fingertips.
Campbell may have given up on Cooley too soon. The OL provided enough time to allow him to give Cooley the extra half-second necessary to finish his break, and Cooley was open at the first down marker. If Campbell had connected with Hagans—and it was close—it would have been a good play, potentially a big one if the uncovered Hagans had been able to say in bounds.
However, by passing up the high percentage conversion play available on 3rd down, and then missing Hagans, the series is over.
OL solid; Campbell questionable.
1st-10, WAS 24. Ravens put four on the LOS. The OL holds—no penetration. Campbell takes a 7-step drop (play-action to Betts). He steps and throws in rhythm to his first option, Randle El, in the intermediate middle, for 14 yards (14 catch, 0 RAC). Campbell had Cooley available in the right flat at the LOS with a 5-yard cushion to run, but elected to go with the deeper option. The pass was a little low, forcing a good to-ground catch by ARE, but the ball was on time and on target, covering 23 yards without ever getting more than 3 off the ground. The man has an arm.
Campbell and OL … solid.
3rd-8, WAS 41. Ravens puts seven on the LOS. Redskins have six (OL, TE). Campbell in shotgun. Ravens bring four from the left side, drop two from the right into coverage. Betts slides left to pick up the safety blitzing off the edge. Cooley takes a bad angle on the blitzing LB, allowing immediate inside pressure on Campbell. The only visible bailout target is Randle El at the first down marker—but two Ravens are in the throwing lane. The LB hits Campbell as he throws, the ball comes out low and skips short.
The Ravens zone blitz left Dockery, Rabach and Rhinehart blocking air, while Heyer neutralized the DE. The play came down to Cooley’s whiff block on the LB, forcing Campbell to have to throw it away.
Campbell and OL acceptable. Cooley not so much.
In their brief appearance, with zero motion, misdirection or apparent interest in going downfield to threaten the defense, the Redskins starting quarterback and offensive line were solid, if not particularly dynamic.
The offensive line did well in six pass protection opportunities, even if only facing one schemed blitz on the evening. Couldn’t have asked for more.
Jason Campbell (3-for-6, 38 yards) looked good on three, made what appeared questionable decisions on two, and appeared to throw it away smartly on the last.
Draw from that what conclusions you will, my friends. And feel free to disagree with my read on any of the plays. Personally, I found the performance mildly encouraging, and will head into next week's glorified practice session against the Pittsburgh Steelers at FedEx Field hoping to see no worse than more of the same. And maybe even a pass down the field for grins.
Preseason NFL Football. Gotta love it.