Two weeks ago, you learned in this space that the Washington Redskins ranked 31st out of 32 teams in points per 100 yards of total. Since then, the team has had a bye and lost to Dallas at home 14-10 and is now officially sputtering, or “kind of treading water” to quote coyote-skinner & head coach Jim Zorn. Getting points from yardage and capitalizing on opportunities appears the biggest issue for Zorn, especially coming off a game where his defense allowed just 14 points and finally produced some INT’s.
Some other telling offensive stats can be found at the QB position, where Jason Campbell is 11th in the league in QB rating (90.3) among passers with at least 800 yards this season. He’s 10th in completion percentage (65%) and 1st in fewest interceptions (3). In fact, his INT rate (1 every 102 passes) is off the charts. The next best QB is Tampa’s Jeff Garcia at 68, and the average among the 33 QB’s with 800+ yards is 38.
However, that’s about where the positives stop for the former Auburn signal-caller, who is essentially playing for a contract extension this year. At what cost has the efficiency and care-of-the-ball come? Consider this:
- Campbell ranks 10th in attempts and 11th in completions, but 17th in yards per game (212) and 19th in TDs.
- 14 QBs have thrown longer passes than his longest – the 67-yard game-winning TD to Moss against New Orleans in Week 2.
Doing some simple math with the nfl.com numbers reveals even more:
- Campbell ranks 20th in yards per attempt (6.9) and 26th in yards per completion (10.7).
- His percentage of completions over 20 yards (12%) and over 40 yards (2%) rank 22nd and 24th, respectively.
So it’s all just dink-and-dunk, 3-step drops & quick slants/screens within the West Coast Offense, right? Or maybe a function of a weak/injured WR corps? Perhaps, but Campbell only averaged 10.8 yards per completion last year. While he may have not taken a ton more shots downfield, there were certainly some riskier throws. His completion percentage (60%) and INT rate (one every 38 passes) were both significantly lower, and the change to those metrics can’t all be attributed to the tutelage of the ‘original Seahawks QB,’ despite what Matt Hasselbeck thinks the Zorn-for-Bill Lazor QB coach swap.
Much has been made about sacks given up recently against the well-employed 3-4 defenses of Pittsburgh & Dallas. Debate focuses on whether these were a result of superior opponents or protection breakdowns, but the quantity is there regardless. Only five QB’s have been sacked more than him (26) this year. In terms of attempts per sack (probably not the best way to measure this), Campbell ranks 26th in the league (11.8). Last year’s rate for the man whose lips have been the butt of many a locker room joke was 19.9, so he’s getting sacked almost twice as frequently. One positive has been fumbles, where his rate per passing attempt has improved threefold. Campbell’s one-time weaknesses of holding the ball too long, pumping, and not ‘feeling’ the rush haven’t appeared much this year since the opener against the New York Giants.
So can a low (and flat from last year) yards per completion rate be overlooked when completion percentage and turnovers have improved despite more sacks?
Absolutely. But consider the impact of a passing game with no deep threat on the running game. Portis’ numbers have taken a big hit over the past two weeks. In addition to crowding the line of scrimmage on first and second downs, defenses have been much more willing to take chances on passing downs. Granted, the competition was better, and the WR position appears to be at its nadir with an injured Moss & Randle El and virtually no production from the two rookies.
However, this may just partly be a function of who Jason Campbell has become. He has a big arm, but is it utilized by the coaches or even himself? Campbell may never put up the per-game numbers we’re seeing from Drew Brees, Phillip Rivers, Tony Room, and Kurt Warner this season. But what should we think when guys like JT O’Sullivan, Gus Ferotte, Chad Pennington, and Dan Orlovsky average a full yard more completion? In addition to Brees, Rivers, Trent Edwards, and Matt Schaub, the left-for-dead Pennington & Warner and fellow 2005-draftee Aaron Rodgers all have better yards/completion and better or equal completion percentages than Campbell.
And don’t forget that Virginia’s favorite football oenophile – Todd Collins – averaged 13.2 yards per completion in limited action last year while completing 64% of his passes.
But, I do have good news. The Dan Snyder marketing machine has ensured that Campbell will at least be among the top Pro Bowl fan vote-getters. At press time he is 9th overall in votes, but not yet among the 16 Redskins who lead the NFC at their respective positions.