Typical recap of the Redskins 17-14 victory over the Buffalo Bills goes something like:
Jason Campbell still has hot hand: The Redskins quarterback followed up a perfect opening in the Hall of Fame game by completing 7-of-10 passes for 71 yards. He led the team on a 12-play drive, capped by Clinton Portis' 1-yard touchdown plunge, at the end of the first quarter.
Do not get me wrong: the continued high-level play of our quarterback, now situated in his umpteenth offense in so many years, is the story of the preseason thus far and enough cannot be said regarding Zorn's apparent effect on Campbell (among others). But rather than focusing on the same thing everone else is jibber jabbering about, I'll just leave it to them. Ben:
Shooter: Jason Campbell played well for the second straight game. Good patience in the pocket, smooth delivery, open receivers. You can tell from looking at him that he is trying his darndest to make this team his.
Jason Campbell has moved back ahead of Colt Brennan in the race to be the game 1 starter for the Skins. In all seriousness, Campbell looked great. He manufactured a TD drive and went 7-10 with two of his incompletions caused by passes being batted down at the line of scrimmage. It looks like he has a good grasp of Zorns offense.
Etc. That's the company line and one I support entirely. But there is an equally compelling story emerging as Marcus Mason (comma winner) likewise played brilliantly in the Redskins' preseason home opener against the Bills. Don't look now but Mason currently leads all running backs in yards.
Ok, so he has had exactly one more game than all the other running backs. Still, he's 3rd in per game rushing yards. What I like the most about his production thus far is the manner in which he's running. His 178 yards have not necessarily been the sexiest runs to date; he currently has zero touchdowns and a long rush of just 19 yards. What Mason has been doing this preseason is lowering his head and running down hill. No too-fancy jukes, just get those necessary yards consistently. He reminds me a lot of Ladell Betts circa 2006, when Clinton Portis was sidelined and Betts came in and did work.
Mason is coachable. This time last year he was averaging just a meager 3.8 YPC which was just good enough to land him on the practice squad. This time around he's up at 5.2 YPC. You might say consider the competition, it's just the preseason, etc. I would respond with: No one on our team with over 10 attempts in the preseason has come close to measuring up against Marcus Mason per down (he already has 34 attempts, more than anyone in the league by a non-trivial margin, which should tell you how much confidence the team has in him) in the last four years, perhaps extending farther back -- I can't find preseason stats from wayback. And the fact is, with a long rush of just 19 yards, his numbers are bound to increase before they decrease. At some point Mason breaks a 20+ or 40+ yard run. His stats are inflatable. My favorite play was a draw he ran ~ 7:15 left in the game. He goes straight, between the tackles, and his juke move is subtle enough not to slow him down much but convincing enough to beat the would-be tackler. It looks effortless.
Was he perfect? Naw, not by a mile. That fumble on the opening kickoff was foolish, but even there he was moving forward with a purpose, head down until he got past the 20-25 yard line. I'd have preferred he held the ball in that instance, but can forgive him because we ended up winning the game. I think the fumble is the reason I'm not reading more about Mason right now, but he's having quite a preseason (in spite of that particular setback). Which means his early success parellels that of the team: undefeatable, we is.
I don't know what it is about Mason, but I just like the way he runs. He moves like a back who knows where he's going, from his Youngstown State days:
Keep an eye on him.