August 14, 2009

Review: Six Campbell Pass Plays

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:

First Possession

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.

Second Possession

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.


Blake said...

I don't know if I agree with your opinion on the Thomas throw. I think that was the perfect execution of a three step drop and delivery. Maybe he had other options, but Thomas could have had that catch and gotten some YAC on that.

Otherwise good writeup.

Sean said...

Great writeup, Om.

I really don't think we saw enough of Campbell to say one way or another whether he's taken "the step" forward.

Hopefully next week, the team will actually throw the ball downfield.

Anonymous said...

"Solid" and "acceptable"? Sure, if you liked last year's offense. This team has no downfield offense. They should be practicing that with these "glorified scrimmages". But we're seeing dump-offs to running backs in the flat. We're seeing quick hits to receivers 5 yards downfield.

You train as you fight. The corollary: don't expect your soldiers to fight differently than you trained them.

Mark "Om" Steven said...

Thanks for the read and comments.


Only part on the Thomas throw I didn't like was Jason seemed to have made up his mind to go to that hitch no matter what and committed to it even as he turned to look Thomas' way. The LB moving to cover Betts was directly in line of the throw, and Jason had to go high to avoid an easy pick six.

That's a dangerous kind of lateral pass to throw if you're not going to look first ... too much traffic, plus a RB drifting that same direction shallow that forces a defender to move that way to cover him. Just saying that from a TV angle, it looked like the throw was rushed by a fraction of a second. Had he seen the defender there before committing to the throw, I'm not sure he doesn't look elsewhere.


Maybe if that third down decision to pass up on Cooley and end up throwing at the last second to Hagans had resulted in an easy Cooley first down instead, with another set of downs pass number 7 on the night would have done downfield.

Six passes man. Against the blitz-happy Ravens in the first preaseason outing. Behind an OL Zorn admitted going in he had concerns about in pass pro. Sometimes discretion really is the better part of valor, even in war metaphors.

Anonymous said...

this is your best article--concise and not too wordy

Anonymous said...

I found my new favorite blog. Keep making posts like these, and I wont need to jerk off to porn anymore.

Anonymous said...

Two things that never change, OM: your great writing and your blind optimism.

Mark "Om" Steven said...

Thanks, Anons.

By the way, did someone really read "blind optimism" in this post? Wow.

Boone said...

Mark,really nice breakdown for we geographically challenged. I'll wait until the games count to form a real opinion :)

Mark "Om" Steven said...

You have a lot to learn about premature evaluation, brother.

chuck said...

very good write up.
one other thing that JC could improve on is elusiveness. he could buy extra seconds (and get more completions) if he didnt just stand there while waiting for receivers to get open.

Cardas said...

Good write up Om. With the first series on the third throw; with the LB crowding the throwing lane moving to cover Betts, do you think that it was designed to pull that LB to clear space for Cooley? That's what I saw anyway.

Mark "Om" Steven said...

Can't say, Cardas ... and unfortunately can't look again as my recording is gone (long story).

Either way, what I take from the play--given the TV angles anyway--is that JC either was slow in his drop and/or just plain rushed the throw to get it to the spot on time, and a result didn't see the LB until he was already executing the throw. The old saw about football being a game of inches is dead true, and those inches are often dictated by a split second of timing. To me that was plainly visible on this play.

Anonymous said...

Great analysis. I think you're being overly generous to Campbell though. Seems like the standards are a tad too low.

He needs to read that blitz better, not pull the ball over people's heads, find Cooley, etc. Would Eli Manning have done those things? Would McNabb or Romo?

Mark "Om" Steven said...

I think our only disagreement is with grading scale. Toyed with scales (1-10, A-F, Awesome-Suck...) but they all seemed too subjective, so I just limited it to solid or questionable.

I figure w/o access to actual coaching film, knowing what each player was *supposed* to do on each play, plus what JC's marching order might have been on each play, that's about as grade-specific as I wanted to get.

As to what those other QB's would do, the answer of course is yes. Sometimes. As will JC. It's just a matter of how often and at how crucial a juncture.