Commentary

Redskins camp preview: How will Campbell pick up the new offense?

Updated: August 18, 2008, 7:29 PM ET
By Eric Karabell | ESPN.com

Editor's note: These camp previews are up to date as of the start of preseason games. For the latest changes since then, check our updated rankings, projections and profiles.

Joe Gibbs did yeoman's work getting the Washington Redskins into the playoffs in 2007, winning the final four regular-season games when all looked lost. But ultimately it was done more with smoke and mirrors, than raw talent.

Yes, the eventual Super Bowl champion Giants were among the teams the Redskins conquered in late December, but consider quarterback Jason Campbell wasn't around for much of it, having suffered a dislocated kneecap, and the Skins had to overcome the death of one of their best defensive players, Sean Taylor. It was miraculous that they were able to finish 9-7. I mean, Clinton Portis played well during the stretch, but Todd Collins was the Skins' quarterback -- 'nuff said -- and there was Gibbs, who at times appeared out of his league making decisions. And still they won!

That said, the coaching change from Gibbs to former Seahawks quarterback coach Jim Zorn should be viewed as a positive one for the franchise, even with a Hall of Fame coach leaving. While the coaching search was a bit curious and circus-like at times, Zorn ended up with the post, and with it comes a new West Coast offense designed with Campbell as the main beneficiary. How fast he and his teammates on offense can adapt to it will go a long way to determining if this team is playoff-bound again.

The entire offensive philosophy is new, which could mean more value for a number of Redskins if Campbell understands it; if he doesn't, it could set everyone back. Portis is already a first-round fantasy pick, but Campbell, Santana Moss and other wide receivers could be very underrated come draft day. While training camp for the rest of the NFC East doesn't seem like it will yield much pertinent on-the-field news, keep a close eye on how the Redskins look, as there is potential value to be had, as well as disaster.

What to look for in camp

Washington Redskins

Jason Campbell and his grip on Jim Zorn's new offense will be the key to the Skins' training camp success.

Key Additions
WR Devin Thomas
WR Malcolm Kelly
TE Fred Davis
Key Losses
WR Brandon Lloyd
WR Reche Caldwell
QB Mark Brunell
Probable Lineup
QB1 Jason Campbell
RB1 Clinton Portis
RB2 Ladell Betts
WR1 Santana Moss
WR2 Antwaan Randle El
WR3 Devin Thomas
TE1 Chris Cooley
K Shaun Suisham
Preseason Schedule
IND Aug. 3, 8 p.m.
BUF Aug. 9, 7 p.m.
@ NYJ Aug. 16, 7 p.m.
@ CAR Aug. 23, 7:30 p.m.
JAX Aug. 28, 7 p.m.
All times ET
Key position battles: Unlike past offseasons, the Redskins really didn't make many moves. Draft picks were actually kept, instead of moved seemingly on a whim. The team did make an effort to trade for unhappy Chad Johnson, but the Bengals refused, and the Redskins drafted a few interesting wide receivers and a tight end who will matter eventually. Basically, the starters on offensive are set in stone, as well as many of the backups. Ladell Betts was a forgotten fantasy option in 2007, because Portis didn't give him too many opportunities like the year before. There's no battle here, but do expect Betts to have a larger part in this new offense since he's a fine receiver from the backfield and Portis has had injury problems. No other running back figures to have much of a role.

Fitting in: The Redskins used their three second-round picks on future options for Campbell to throw to, and each should make an impact as a rookie. Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly have size and speed, and were among the top wide receiver options in the draft. The Redskins aren't exactly deep there, as Moss has battled injuries and Antwaan Randle El is more of a third receiver, not a starter. James Thrash is ready to be passed on the depth chart as well. At tight end, Chris Cooley is arguably a top five fantasy option and is in no danger of being overtaken, but by drafting USC's Fred Davis, the Redskins can use double-tight end sets, or even use Cooley out of the backfield (as a blocking back) or on the outside.

Meanwhile, Jason Taylor will fit in, uh, quite nicely on the Redskins' defensive line. He automatically makes it a viable unit, but don't expect the difference to be huge to the defense overall. That secondary still has question marks, enough of them that even Taylor's voracious pass rush can't help.

On the line: Keeping tackles Chris Samuels and Jon Jansen healthy is critical, especially with Campbell being a bit fumble-prone. Jansen missed the entire season because of a dislocated ankle, while right guard Randy Thomas has not been durable. It's an old, brittle line learning a new system it might be able to thrive in, although that shouldn't hold back Portis. The defensive line welcomes former Viking Erasmus James, but he's not guaranteed to start. Andre Carter can be an impact guy in deep IDP leagues, but for the most part, fantasy owners need not worry about this defensive line.

The bottom line

Jason Campbell is the key man here. His health shouldn't be an issue. He has the arm and poise to succeed in a totally new offense, but it's still going to be a difficult transition to make; training camp is going to be important for him. This past season was his first as full-time starter, and we didn't get to see him finish December. Every year a few obvious fantasy backups -- quarterbacks you can get after the top 15 or so -- emerge as surprise starters, and Campbell could be one of them in 2008. But more importantly, his emergence has an affect on the rest of the offense.

Eric Karabell is a senior writer for ESPN.com fantasy. You can e-mail him here.

Eric Karabell | email

ESPN.com Senior Writer