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Jason Campbell transforms this offense

Before I regress into a semi-rant against Mark Brunell's '06 performance, let me just say how pleased I am that he took a substantial pay cut to remain a Washington Redskin. His base salary in '07 was supposed to be around 4M and he essentially voided that contract and took in around 1M in base salary instead. He had stated previously that he would only play backup in Washington, and we should be happy to have him. Whatever criticisms I have for Mark Brunell extend to him as a starting QB. As a backup he is perfect; he understands the offense, has proven at a minimum capable of winning NFL games with this team, and recognizes his new role given the contract he signed.

My main criticism of him as a passer in '06 was his unwillingness to throw the ball deep. The strength of our receiving unit isn't in short passes -- we kind of lack that big, possession receiver -- but rather in our speed and downfield play ability. Santana Moss is fast and reacts as well to the ball as anyone in the league, so the best logical way of using him would be on deep passes. Joe Gibbs offense has historically been a running team that uses a persistent ground game to open up the deep play action pass. If it is predicated on the eventual deep pass, though, you have to be willing to actually throw it deep.

Mark Brunell wasn't. 73% of his passes did not pass 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. That statistic is meaningless without context, but let me assure readers that that is higher than the vast majority of QBs in the league. Jason Campbell among them. Brunell had exactly one pass on 260 attempts that went farther than 40 yards.

Compare that to Jason Campbell. 60% of his passes (closer to league average, presumably) did not pass 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. If that change wasn't striking enough, consider that on 53 fewer overall attempts, JC launched the ball deep eight times as often as Mark Brunell. And while admittedly he wasn't completing those passes, at a minimum opposing defenses knew they had to defend those parts of the field. With Mark Brunell there really wasn't any reason for defenses to honestly play the deep pass. Which is crazy given how often we were playing from behind.

My biggest complaint with JC's performance from '06 was his completion percentage, though that's largely a function of timing and coaching and I remain absolutely confident that Al Saundres will get more out of this kid in 2007. What is more encouraging for me are the kinds of things you can't Coach. Mark Brunell, at 36, simply wasn't going to alter his gameplan drastically. He was a conservative passer who lacked the inclination to throw the ball deep.

Jason Campbell is willing to stretch the field and, consequently, opposing defenses. If the statistics hadn't delivered that point already, then Ryan O'Halloran of The Times eliminates any doubt:

The important parties believe the biggest benefit for Campbell this spring is when he plays a DVD, he will be watching No. 17 on the screen, not No. 8. He no longer has to play the hypothetical game, answering questions from Lazor about what he would have done on a Brunell completion or how differently (or similarly) he would have handled the blitz Brunell faced.
    What become instantly clear is that Campbell will take more chances than Brunell. In two fewer starts, Campbell threw two more interceptions but two more touchdowns. Chances are, Brunell would not have tried to thread the needle to Cooley against Carolina that resulted in a touchdown.
    "Everybody plays their game differently," Campbell said. "Some guys take more chances than others. I won't ever be afraid to take shots."
And that's encouraging.