This Jason's a pretty scary character

Jason Campbell made his first NFL start against Tampa Bay last year at this time. Now, Campbell leads the Redskins back to Tampa Bay as a more confident, efficient and mobile quarterback. You only had to watch his game last week against Dallas to see that.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers gave Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell his initiation last year when he made his first NFL start at Raymond James Stadium.

It wasn't too bad, actually. He went 19-of-34 for 196 yards and two touchdowns in a 20-17 loss. But a green Campbell certainly made some mistakes.

When the Buccaneers (6-4) and Washington Redskins (5-5) square off on Sunday, they'll see a much different quarterback.

Campbell, who makes is 18th NFL start on Sunday, is a more confident, productive and elusive passer than the Buccaneers could have envisioned a year ago.

"I think the quarterback [Jason] Campbell has really grown up in Washington and you see them using a lot more of their offense," Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said.

Redskins offensive coordinator Al Samuels had to scale back his extensive playbook when Campbell took over for veteran Mark Brunell. He struggled at times during his first seven starts, completing only 53.1 percent of his passes and throwing 10 touchdowns against six interceptions.

Campbell entered this season as the starter and his comfort with the scheme and the weapons around him shows. His completion percentage is up in the 60 percent range, the baseline mark for an efficient NFL quarterback. His touchdown-to-interception ratio is similar to last year (he's thrown 11 touchdowns to 8 interceptions through 10 games). But his quarterback rating is up five points from last year and he's shown an ability to run, as he's gained 165 yards on 29 carries.

The third-year quarterback is growing into the player head coach Joe Gibbs envisioned when they dealt three draft picks to move up in 2005 to select the Auburn product 25th overall

"When we went after Jason in the draft we paid a big price because we saw in him in college and his background that he was the right kind of person," Gibbs said.

Last week, despite a 28-23 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, Campbell showed signs of more progress. He threw for a career-high 348 yards passing in the loss, going 33-of-58 passing. Late in the game, as the Redskins attempted to mount a comeback, Campbell ran the two-minute drill effectively until he tried to force a pass on a bootleg late in the game and was intercepted by Dallas' Terrence Newman.

Gruden coached Campbell at the Senior Bowl in 2005 and learned that Campbell was a coach's son in Taylorsville, Miss. He said that has led Campbell to master some of the subtle aspects of the job that some quarterbacks struggle with.

"He has all the intangibles that you're looking for in terms of getting people around him to play for him," Gruden said. "He's a charismatic guy and for a big guy, he's very athletic, and he has a rifle for an arm and he's tough."

Also earning Gruden's respect was Campbell's decision as a rookie to wear No. 17 to honor former Bucs and Redskins quarterback Doug Williams.

Gibbs said when they selected Campbell that he had many of Williams' qualities. Now he believes he's watching a quarterback whose development grows by the day and whose ceiling appears high.

"It's going to be a matter of how much Jason continues to improve," Gibbs said.

Redskins primer

Three things to watch on Sunday

The running game

The Redskins are ranked No. 8 in rushing and Clinton Portis has two 100-yard games in his last three games.

The linebackers

London Fletcher, Rocky McIntosh and Marcus Washington are playing as well as any group in the NFL right now.

The secondary

There are plenty of great names back there, but this group has also allowed 17 touchdown passes so far this season.

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Listen to Bucsblitz.com's Matthew Postins every Tuesday with former Buccaneers linebacker Scot Brantley on WHBO 1470 ESPN Radio in Tampa and Clearwater from 3-6 p.m. If you miss the show, check out Bucsblitz.com's exclusive team media center for Postins' archived appearances.

Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for Bucsblitz.com and the Charlotte (Fla.) Sun-Herald. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, and his coverage of the Buccaneers has won numerous state and national awards.


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