First, let's take on context.
Philadelphia Pass Defense
They're good. It can be tough to adjust one's scouting expectations to the quality of the opponent, but it is a must. At the same time, we can't be sure the Eagles will continue to dominate at this level. Even opponent adjustment can sometimes underestimate how stark the contrast is between a top ten quarterback, and what Eagles opponents Oakland, Kansas City and Tampa Bay have started.
Let's just settle on good and go from there. The next thing to consider is context. Context can make a quarterback look better than he is or worse than he is. In a broad sense, it's much harder to play from behind than ahead. At some point the game is decided and it can become very easy to play from behind. It's really just a matter of game theory. When a team is behind but still somewhat in contention, that team must pass the ball and because the defense can expect the pass, the pass becomes much less effective. Contrarily, when a team is behind but very much not in contention, like Seattle against the Colts, the defense knows that passing yards can be exchanged for game clock.
Campbell played his best after his team was well behind. However, the game didn't seem out of reach and the Eagles did not play prevent. Nevertheless, it does queer his results some. By Win Probability, Campbell played almost no meaningful snaps.
My build up might be window dressing. The truth is: I would not judge Campbell from what I saw yesterday. Instead, I will simply attempt to highlight some impressions and reactions I had to his game.
Jason Campbell is hyper vigilant of pass rush: Campbell showed weakness making ordinary throws despite having time and very good arm strength. He misjudged pass pressure, anticipating blitzes that never arrived and ignoring blitzers that were closing on him. That caused him to routinely throw off his back foot and miss easy throws. It also, on one occasion, caused him to scramble out and attempt to pass down field even though Will Witherspoon was bearing down on him from behind. That led to a fumble. A fumble that Campbell owns.
Campbell is not at fault for his team falling well behind: Washington was down fourteen points before the end of the first quarter. Philadelphia scored on an end around on its first drive. It scored again after Campbell was intercepted and the interception returned for a touchdown. That play was a function of field position, Washington was on its 11, and luck. At worst, Campbell can be accused of throwing over a beat lineman, and that is a very minor mistake. The pass was tipped and as fortune would deign, fell into the arms of a defender with a clear path to the end zone. Very small mistake that resulted in a very bad outcome.
Campbell has a great arm: Captain Checkdown can sling it, and can make the two most important throws in the Greg Knapp offense: the short throw and the bomb. His short-range accuracy impressed me. Campbell may not be among the elite deep-throwers, but he has the tools to air it out too.
Campbell was not allowed to audible: That could hurt his passing numbers and increase his risk of being sacked. On one notable down, Campbell couldn't audible out of an overload blitz and was barely dropping back before being dropped.
This is a chicken and egg dilemma. Does an untrusting, targeted and inexperienced coaching staff mistakenly not trust Campbell, or has Campbell, considered unpolished most of his career and sometimes cited as having trouble reading the defense, never done enough to earn that trust? I don't know.
Campbell handles real pressure with aplomb: An interesting split, no doubt. Campbell struggled against perceived pressure, but stood tall against real pressure. We have seen this same trait from Seneca Wallace. Wallace will sometimes throw a strike with men in his face and then go goofy foot against a three man rush. It's possible both simply fail to see open receivers; that both struggle to read an NFL defense.
The public perception of Campbell is worthless: Jaws, fans, et al, sorry, but I am ignoring your opinion. It's too bad when a bad reputation haunts a player, but it's also rather unshakeable. For a second, let us see the world from Ron Jaworski's eyes. You are preparing for a Monday night game between the Eagles and Redskins. You know Campbell has struggled this season, up to and including being benched. You do not go into the broadcast green, instead you go in with some preparation for Campbell playing poorly and perhaps Campbell showing something.
Once the game starts, the early narrative is easily enough that Campbell is really struggling, but is he really? The Redskins first drive ended with a botched snap. Campbell deserves some small blame for not handling it better, but botched snaps are phenomenal thing. They are uncommon, constructed from singular events never repeated. If we are looking at Campbell himself, do we really discredit him for not handling the snap better? It seems like minor criticism.
That drive had accomplished 22 yards against a defense that has allowed 22.03 yards per drive. Had the snap not been fumbled, Campbell could have extended and likely at least put the drive into the good category. He was responsible in part for 21 of the drive's 22 yards.
On the next drive, Campbell missed a pass and threw another incomplete. The drive stalled.
Then all hell broke loose and the Redskins were suddenly well behind. At that point, it's Jason Campbell playing behind and against one of the best pass defenses in football.
So, yes, it's all pretty inconclusive. I did not see the ability to read a blitz or a coverage scheme I would have liked, but Philly has been confusing quarterbacks forever. We'll just have to revisit Cambell and double check. Right now, I still think he is worth a contract, but I also feel ambivalent. Pocket presence and read are not qualities I expect a veteran quarterback to develop.