You can reach Rich Tandler by email at WarpathInsiders@comcast.net
As chronicled here earlier this week, the Redskins haven't had much success when it comes to developing young quarterbacks. That doesn't mean, however, that some of these inexperienced signal callers haven't had impressive debuts. Here is a history of what Jason Campbell has to live up to as he takes his first NFL snaps this Sunday:
- In 1985, Jay Schroeder came into a game against the New York Giants at RFK Stadium in the second quarter for his first meaningful NFL snaps (he had seen some mopup action earlier in the season). On his second play after having replaced Joe Theismann, who had suffered that career-ending broken leg at the hands of Lawrence Taylor, he completed a bomb to Art Monk. Although John Riggins fumbled that ball away a few plays later, the tone was set. Schroeder led two second-half touchdown drives, capping the second one by throwing a 14-yard touchdown pass to Clint Didier to provide the game-winning score in the Redskins 23-21 win.
- There was a lot of head scratching taking place after Norv Turner announced that rookie Gus Frerotte, a seventh-round draft pick, would start at quarterback on the road against the Colts in 1994. Pushed to the bench was Heath Shuler, the third overall selection in the draft. It looked like Turner's gambit had backfired as the Redskins trailed Indianapolis 17-3 in the second quarter Frerotte then took charge. He looked like a veteran in leading a 79-yard touchdown drive just before the half. That was part of a 38-3 Washington run that saw Frerotte throw two touchdown passes to tight end James Jenkins. The Redskins "other" rookie quarterback won NFC Player of the Week honors with, going 17 of 32 passing for 226 yards. The game ignited a Gus or Heath quarterback controversy that lasted for the next two and a half years. It ended with Shuler getting traded after the 1996 season.
- Like Schroeder's, Patrick Ramsey's NFL debut came sooner than expected as he replaced an injured Danny Wuerffel in the early going of 2002 game at Tennessee. Ramsey summed up his performance well, saying, "Things just kind of clicked out there." He was 20 of 34 for 268 yards. The rookie first-round selection threw a pair of touchdown passes, one to Rod Gardner the other the Kevin Lockett. The Redskins rolled to an easy 31-14 win.
Can Jason Campbell have an equally successful start? Or will it be a shaky, confused effort like Shuler had in a Dallas rout in '94? Or might he put up some good numbers but too many mistakes for the Redskins to overcome as Mark Rypien did in 1988?
It is highly likely that Campbell will make mistakes. Some reporters around Redskins Park, including our own John Keim, have picked up a sense that Campbell isn't quite ready to go yet. That translates into a high probability of multiple turnovers.
It's here that we get on to the subject of the other 21 players who will be starting for the Redskins. Almost lost in the hoopla over the Campbell start is the fact that Clinton Portis is out for the season with a broken hand. Portis and Mark Brunell have been two of the mainstays of the Washington offense since they arrived along with Joe Gibbs in 2004. It's been unusual to see a game without one of them playing; a game without either of them in the starting lineup gives the offense a whole new look and feel.
Ladell Betts doesn't have Portis' big-play potential but he's a solid runner who can tear off a 15- or 20-yard gain if he's given a small opening. Another change to the offense should have the first extended work by a genuine big back since Gibbs' return in T. J. Duckett.
The Tampa Bay defense, statistically at least, is a shadow of the dominating unit it has been for much of this decade. They are 24th overall and 24th in rushing defense, allowing a mediocre 4.1 yards per rush. If the Betts and Duckett—and maybe Campbell on a few scrambles--can average at least that much on 30 carries or so that will make Campbell's life much easier.
When Campbell's life gets difficult, it will be up to the Washington defense to bail him out. If Campbell throws a pick, it will be a hit on his confidence; if the D can come up big and minimize the damage any turnovers cause the damage to Campbell's psyche and, of course, the impact on the scoreboard will be lessened considerably.
It says here that Campbell will go 15 of 26 for 225 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. The Bucs will return one of those picks for a touchdown.
That will be all of the scoring Tampa Bay will do. Washington will control the clock on the ground as Betts and Duckett will combine for 150 yards rushing. They each score a touchdown and the Redskins will win going away.
Redskins 24, Bucs 7
Rich Tandler is the author of The Redskins From A to Z, Volume 1: The Games. This unique book has an account of every game the Redskins played from when they moved to Washington for the 1937 season through 2001. For details and ordering information go to http://www.RedskinsGames.com