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Redskins preview: Zorn brings West Coast offense to D.C.

Questions about the Redskins start with the new head coach, Jim Zorn.

He was a late hire last winter to replace Joe Gibbs, inheriting a staff in place. Zorn never even has been a coordinator and has not called plays, and now he's installing a version of the West Coast offense and plans to call the plays himself. Still, he has a plan and the Redskins' offense should be more cohesive than the unsuccessful effort to mesh the Gibbs offense with Al Saunders' passing game philosophy.

Zorn hopes the Redskins can pick up where they left off last season, winning their final four games to finish 9-7 and earn a wild-card playoff spot. The most significant of those victories was a road game against the Giants, who soon thereafter began their Super Bowl run.

Of course, it's worth noting that those victories came with backup quarterback Todd Collins taking over for an injured Jason Campbell, who has been given the reins again. Campbell, beginning his fourth season, is still raw, although the Redskins expect his play to improve because he spent the offseason at Redskins Park with Zorn learning the new offense.

Campbell has weapons. Clinton Portis has averaged more than 1,500 yards rushing in his five full (non-injury) seasons. Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El give him two nice receiving targets, tight end Chris Cooley was in the Pro Bowl last year and is ticketed for a big role in Zorn's offense, and the offensive line, save guard Pete Kendall who joined the team in 2007, has been together for four years.

On defense, Washington needs to improve a pass rush that ranked 16th in the league last year in sacks. Defensive end Jason Taylor, acquired from Miami, is the leader in sacks among active NFL players; he had 11½ last year for a team that finished 1-15.

Taylor is an upgrade who should help Andre Carter, another speed rusher from the other side, but depth is lacking since Phillip Daniels suffered a season-ending torn ACL on the first day of training camp.

On the hot seat

Quarterback Jason Campbell. If the Redskins don't get off to a fast start, there will be calls for Todd Collins, who was superlative in the final three-and-a-half regular-season games (5 TDs, 0 interceptions, 106.4 passer rating) last season after Campbell was lost with an injury.


Tight end Chris Cooley. He led the team with 66 receptions a year ago and will play an even bigger role this year as the tight end is a critical component of the West Coast offense. The Redskins plan to move him around, and don't be surprised to see Cooley down the middle of the field, a route that often utilizes tight ends in the West Coast scheme.

Hard road to hoe

The Redskins play all three division road games in the first five weeks of the season and have a home game against NFC South favorite New Orleans in that stretch, too. That's a tough beginning for a new coach teaching a new offense to an inexperienced quarterback.

Redskins will be better than you think if ...

Jason Campbell can make a big jump to become a consistent quarterback in Zorn's offense. This is his fourth season, so it's time, and he has the benefit of a good runner and good offensive line to protect him.

Redskins will be worse than you think if ...

Coordinator Greg Blache's defense can't continue the progress it showed last year under Gregg Williams, who thought he would get the call to replace Joe Gibbs, but did not.

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