Jason Campbell's defenders have developed a whole cottage industry in excuse-making. And, for the most part, with good reason. JC's had plenty go wrong that has prevented fans from seeing the things he does really well.
That's not to say that he's going to be a great QB. But just as there's no evidence that he's going to be great, the evidence from last year that he's terrible is so wrapped up in other things wrong with the team that you can't conclude one thing or another. In all probability, he's perfectly average, a good, solid NFL quarterback.
It's that fuzzy evidence from last season that has JC's defenders being so optimistic this season. But some of that evidence isn't so fuzzy, as the stat gurus at Football Outsiders point out. They recently gave an excellent interview to Homer McFanboy that noted the problem with the Skins.
“We can trace almost all of it back to Chris Samuels. They posted their three worst DVOA [the uberstat that measures the quality of an offense compared to average] totals in week eight, when he was out with a knee [injury] and then the last few weeks of the season, once he was done for the year."
Their stats show that without Samuels, the Skins average yards per play dropped by a full yard.
"It’s not often that you can trace an offense’s demise to the loss of one player... because of the lack of depth they have on the offensive line, losing Samuels for any length of time simply killed them. And that was just as true for Campbell and the passing game as it was for Clinton Portis and the running game."
There have been plenty of anecdotes about the line's breakdown killing the team's play, but the stats back it up, too. As the line eroded, Jim Zorn was forced to scale back the passing plays, which killed both Campbell and Portis; everything revolved around the line.
Which is why it's so wonderful that the team devoted so much of the offseason to improving the depth on the line, and enhancing its players. They even went so far as to sign a $100 million lineman.
Wait... that was the defensive line?
Let's hope that Chris Samuels stays healthy then.