INSIDE SLANT New Redskins coach Jim Zorn is a former quarterback and the passing game is the only part of the team's approach that he is greatly changing.
"Initially, it's going to be a run-first philosophy because of who we have at running back and how developed the running game is going to be versus the passing game, but I want to create balance as long as I'm here," Zorn said.
Zorn, Seattle's quarterbacks coach for seven years, only worked as a coordinator for two weeks before the Redskins named him their head coach. He won't stop working with the quarterbacks despite his myriad new responsibilities.
"I've got an offensive assistant (Chris Meidt) who's going to help me," Zorn said. "He speaks my language. A lot of the time I'll spend with the QBs will be that first 20 minutes of practice where we're working individual drills. The burden I'm going to have, if there is one, is off the field. I'm going to carve some quarterback meeting time into my day so I can continue to keep those guys speaking the language and seeing what I'm seeing."
Zorn, a former quarterback, said that Jason Campbell is a good fit for his West Coast scheme and has surprisingly good feet for a 6-foot-5 quarterback generally regarded as a drop-back passer.
"A lot of quarterbacking is change of direction," Zorn said. "You might have to throw on the move inside the pocket. It's not standing there stoically waiting for somebody to come open. It's getting back, getting forward and once you step forward, the ball should be gone. Those things are going to help him to be on board when the onslaught of the offense comes in."
Although the Redskins don't have a minicamp until May 2, Zorn has already been working extensively with Campbell.
"Jason's going to have develop over several years," Zorn said. "The thing we've got to do is make sure that we don't give him so much that he can't function. ... I don't want him to have to think all through training camp, 'Woe is me. I have to learn a whole 'nother system. I have to be with a bunch of new guys.' "
One of those new guys is offensive coordinator Sherman Smith, Zorn's buddy from their days playing with the Seahawks. Smith was Tennessee's running backs coach but needs to get up to speed with Zorn's passing game.
"The hardest thing Sherman is going to have to learn is 'Why?', " Zorn said. "Seeing the pattern is going to be easy. It's why are we reading it the way we're reading it? Why are you choosing this guy?"
--New Redskins coach Jim Zorn isn't intimidated by the move from the creampuff NFC West -- which his Seahawks won the past four years, once with a 9-7 record -- to the rigorous NFC East, home to the Super Bowl champion Giants, the NFC regular-season king Cowboys and the NFC's best team this decade, the Eagles.
"The NFC West isn't a puff division," Zorn said. "The attitude there is 'attack and defend' like everybody else. Our teams competed very well against the teams in the NFC East. I feel (the NFC East) could be the best in football, but I don't feel overwhelmed by the daunting task. I think it was so hard to win in Seattle. This is a division where teams can beat each other up. What we have to do is make sure that we keep our guys healthy."
Zorn was not only hired a month later than the three other new coaches -- Baltimore's John Harbaugh, Atlanta's Mike Smith and Miami's Tony Sparano -- but he has to start earlier. The Redskins are playing in the Hall of Fame game against 2006 champion Indianapolis and the regular-season opener at the Giants makes Washington one of the first to play in the preseason and regular season.
"I didn't think someone was out to get me, but I did think, 'Oh my gosh,'" Zorn said. "But in the next breath, you set yourself and go. ... What more could a rookie head coach ask for? The challenge is there. The challenge is set. I hope to meet the challenge, not only as a head coach. I hope our team is well prepared to really go out and play hard."
The Redskins almost always played hard for Zorn's predecessor, Joe Gibbs, but the new man doesn't feel he has to measure up to the retired Hall of Famer.
"I won't pretend to try (to be Joe Gibbs)," Zorn said. "I'll try to do my thing. I can't worry about comparisons. We're starting out with a clean slate. Players realize that things change. Each year is a new year. Joe did it his way. That's out. I'm saying let's do it this way now. I'm not discounting what Joe did. I can sense that throughout the building. But we do have to move forward."
The Redskins are doing so with a virtually stand-pat roster, having not added a player and having only lost backups Reche Caldwell and David Macklin to free agency, while reserves Mark Brunell and Brandon Lloyd were released. A few other backups remain unsigned and could return.
"It's not a shock," Zorn said of the usually spend-happy Redskins not signing a free agent. "It's kind of the way it's worked out. There were several guys that we looked hard at. Sometimes you just get immediately out of being able to sign a guy because that's not what you want to spend on that player and somebody else does."
Zorn remains surprised that he has a job for which he didn't apply, but he's glad if he can be a trendsetter for other position coaches.
"There's other (position coaches) out there as well who could be qualified," Zorn said. "It's not an exact science. There isn't one formula. I'm just glad I didn't have to be on the fast track."
This report is courtesy The Sports Xchange, all rights reserved.
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