The Nickel Package: Change in the Air

The Nickel Package--The offense will see two new starters this week. We evaluate the changes and take a hard look at two of the team's star players.

1. Jason Campbell starts. The players seem to be energized by the change, which is not a shot at Mark Brunell but there's a excitement about the unknown. And Campbell is the unknown. He has talent, which is why he was drafted in the first place. We'll say this: not everyone is sold on Campbell being ready just yet. Does he know the entire offense? No. So that could be a problem. But Campbell can make plays when things break down and things will break down. At 6-foot-5, he's four inches taller than Brunell, which allows him to do something we haven't seen enough of this season: stand in against the blitz and still be able to see downfield.

2. Mark Brunell is benched. Like him or not, give Brunell credit for standing in and answering tough questions every week. He can be prickly, a bit of a smart aleck and all that. But no quarterback has faced the grilling Brunell has during his three years here. And he's never backed down. This benching will be tough for him because there's no doubt what it means: his career has entered permanent backup phase. But that's what other teams felt he should have been in before this season.

3. Clinton Portis is finished. It's expected that the Redskins will put him on the injured reserve list on Wednesday, ending the most frustrating season of his career. Sometimes you have to wonder about karma. As good as Portis was last season, he had a bad offseason in terms of conditioning. Remember that 98 percent attendance figure tossed around by Joe Gibbs? Portis too often was among the two percent. He needs to have a better offseason. He is not among the top five backs in the NFL. To get there, he needs a different approach.

4. Ladell Betts starts. Betts has seven games to cash in on free agency. If Betts can handle the load, he could get a nice contract from another team to start. But after this year and Portis' injuries -- four of them -- it would be wise for the Redskins to re-sign Betts. He's not as dynamic a runner as Portis, but he can be an effective back.

5. Sean Taylor's performance. We thought this would be the season he took a big step up. Alas, he's the same player as he was last year. Which means some nice hits, but not enough big plays, missed tackles and big plays allowed. Adam Archuleta was benched for similar offenses. Taylor has too much talent, but so far that's all we've seen is talent. We haven't seen a player who has gotten appreciably better. To do so, he must become smarter on the field and cut out the stupid penalties. And teammates can't enable him by saying it somehow makes him more intimidating. Sorry, but teams are still attacking him. 

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