2006 Training Camp: Quarterbacks
They are the 'however', the 'but' and the reason for caution in most Redskins previews. Their names have been accompanied by warnings often enough that we could call them the Caveat Crew.
They are the Redskins quarterbacks.
Their names and the accompanying warnings are familiar to most Redskins fans:
Mark "He's Old/Injured" Brunell, Todd "Journeyman/Who?" Collins and Jason "Untested" Campbell.
Those criticisms are not entirely unfounded either.
Brunell, 35 years old and firmly entrenched as the team's starter, is entering his 14th season in the NFL. Collins, 34, has been in the league for 12 years and taken a total of 546 snaps (and only 18 since 1998) and the 25-year-old Campbell's lofty stats have Auburn attached to them.
Additionally, Brunell has had to work through injuries, including a broken finger that held him out of mini camp.
Throw in a brand-new offense that relies heavily on the quarterback and you begin to see that the caveats have some merit.
So should Redskins fans panic?
Of course not.
Brunell, who turns 36 in September, had a forgettable first season with the Redskins but rewarded the faith Joe Gibbs placed in him with his performance last season.
He is often cited as lacking a big arm but managed to throw 36 passes of 20 or more yards last season, including nine that topped 40 yards. He also threw two picture-perfect deep balls in a Monday night game at Dallas that no Redskins fan will ever forget.
Brunellís age is often cited as a negative without acknowledging the experience that accompanies his years in the league. He threw 23 touchdowns to only 10 interceptions last year while amassing more than 3,000 passing yards, completing nearly 60 percent of his passes.
Brunell, to employ an oft-used adage, knows when to get rid of the ball and, when he does, he is not prone to mistakes. Only three of his 10 interceptions last season came on third down. He is an efficient quarterback who is adept at recognizing opposing defenses.
While he is not the scrambling passer he was in his early years, Brunell repeatedly demonstrated an ability to use his legs to buy time last season.
With a deeper offensive line in front of him and a much more dangerous receiving corps, Brunell is poised to have a very solid 2006-07 campaign.
It is worth noting that, after David Patten was lost to an injury, Brunell was left with only two reliable receiving targets. That problem, to put it mildly, has been remedied.
While Al Saundersí new offense will take some time to master, the team could do much worse than to put the reins in the hands of a crafty veteran like Brunell. With the team focused on the playoffs, and beyond, Brunellís experience, instinct and ability are all major assets.
Campbell, the teamís first round draft pick from two seasons ago, enters training camp second on the depth chart. The recurring theme with Campbell is one of potential.
The Redskins liked what they saw in Campbell enough to sacrifice draft picks to be in a position to snag him.
It is not hard to see why the Redskins valued him so highly, the 6-4, 223 pound Campbell possesses obvious physical skills. He led the highly touted and undefeated 2004 Auburn Tigers team.
He has a strong arm and, while he is not a running quarterback, he can use his feet adeptly to keep a play alive. He has demonstrated poise and leadership, qualities Gibbs values highly and has a proven ability to adapt; Saunders is his sixth offensive coordinator in six years.
Gibbs has raved about Campbell at every opportunity, even going so far as to say he would have been comfortable playing Campbell last season had the need arisen.
Obviously, until Campbell takes snaps in a regular season game there will be some question about the gap between his promise and the measurable results. Nevertheless, Campbell will benefit from another year under the tutelage of Brunell and has a top-notch coaching staff to guide him.
Look for Campbell to get significant time in training camp and preseason. In the NFL, a backup is one strange play away from starting and Redskins fans can rest assured that Gibbs will do everything he can to be certain Campbell is ready.
It is easy to overlook Todd Collins, his resume is not going to jump out at anyone and he has flown under the radar as an understudy to Trent Green in Kansas City for the past seven seasons.
So whatís to like about him? One word: knowledge.
The offense Saunders is importing is complicated; it relies on timing and precision and is a nuanced and multi-faceted attack. Collins knows that offense and he knows it extremely well.
His ability as a quarterback who has studied/practiced in the offense is extremely valuable. His signing means the learning curve the team faces is much less steep than it would be sans his presence. It also gives the team the ability to immediately plug him into games, should the need arise, without the worries of a knowledge gap.
Teaching the offense to two quarterbacks is plenty of work, having no experience with the Saunders system might have proven disastrous.
So while Collins is not likely to see a lot of playing time, any knowledgeable Redskins fan should see his presence as a positive one.
This article was released on 2006-07-27.
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