Running in Jason Campbell’s Shoes

By Carla Peay
Updated: September 11, 2007

Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell

Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell

WASHINGTON, D.C. — It’s all on Jason Campbell’s shoulders now, the hopes of fans across D.C. who are tired of Redskins mediocrity, and are ready to see the Burgundy and Gold return to playoff form.

The third year quarterback from Auburn with the thick southern accent is the starter now, with last year’s starter Mark Brunell dropped to third string status behind backup Todd Collins.

Campbell turned in an unspectacular, but overall solid performance in Sunday afternoon’s 16-13 overtime win over the visiting Miami Dolphins, giving the team a good season opening victory.

“I’ve been thinking about this game all summer. You get a little bit jittery, a little bit over excited. But once I calmed down, it was all about playing football,” Campbell said.

The opening day jitters were evident, as Campbell’ s first pass was intercepted. He would throw two picks on the day. “A fter that interception, I felt good after that, because I got it out of the way,” Campbell said.

The toughest blow of the afternoon came when starting right tackle Jon Jansen went down early in the second quarter with a fractured right ankle, pressing into service Maryland’s undrafted rookie Stephon Heyer. With Jansen possibly done for the season, Heyer may have to get familiar with an unfamiliar role very quickly.

And running back Clinton Portis, who seems to be in a make or break year to prove he is still one of the elite running backs in the game, had 98 yards on 17 carries and one touchdown. The usually effervescent Portis played well, especially with that bolder sized chip on his shoulder.

“I ain’t trying to send no message to nobody. What I did today helped my team win, and that’s what I want to continue to do week in and week out. The message is, when I’m on the field, I’m going to give you what I’ve got,” Portis said. It may be a while before we see Southeast Jerome again.

But the focus was on the 25-year-old quarterback, and how well he takes on the mantle of leadership of the Redskins in only the eighth start of his career. Campbell was 12 for 21 on the day for 222 yards, with no touchdowns and 2 interceptions. He also added 29 yards rushing. If Campbell looked rattled at times, more often than that, he showed poise and maturity, hopefully a sigh of things to come.

“In the first game you’re going to make a lot of mistakes and a lot of great plays. Overall, we feel good about the way we played. We have a lot of work to do. I’m going to go back and watch film and probably kick myself after throwing the first interception of the game, but I’ll move on,” Campbell said. “I’ll learn from it. I’m just beginning.”

Hopefully the learning curve will be quick for the 6-foot-5 quarterback with the laser arm and all the physical tools he needs to be a successful quarterback in this league.

More important than that will be his ability to handle whatever adversity is sure to come his way. Another sub .500 season will not play well among rabid fans grown weary with promises, who are throwing a world of hope and expectation at Jason Campbell’s feet.