Watching Practice With Scott Campbell

The morning session starts with special teams practice, large groups of guys working on covering punts. It’s exactly the kind of thing that can be overwhelming if you try to take it all in, so I ask Scott what he watches during special teams practice.

Danny Smith observes special teams practice.

Danny Smith observes special teams practice.

“Right now, I focus on the punter that we drafted. I’m really focused in when they’re doing the punting drill, to see how he’s hitting the ball, and how Frost is hitting the ball. So I’m following that closely.”

This, I’m good at. I’ve been following the punter competition for weeks now.

“And I really enjoy listening to Danny Smith, yelling out scenarios and substitutions. It’s enjoyable just to watch him go through the drills, he’s so detailed.” I’m comfortable with this as well. I’ve talked to Coach Smith, and he’s absolutely great to listen to. So far, I’m feeling like I’m on top of this practice thing.

The horn sounds and practice shifts, players running from one field to the next. They settle in to position drills, grouped by position. Defensive line, defensive backs, so on.

The defensive line.

The defensive line.

“This part right here,” Scott says, “the individual part of practice, some drills you can’t get a lot out of, because they’re just giving them play instruction – like defensive line right over there.” Indeed, the defensive line at this point appears to be standing in a cluster and looking at the coach. “From my standpoint, there’s not a lot to get out of that, for personnel evaluation. They’re going over things like plays, where to line up, stuff like that, while I’m more evaluating them athletically, how they play, how they compete, how they perform different drills.”

We walk a few yards upfield to where the defensive backs are doing a backpedaling drill that’s much more active. “This is a good drill to watch, Jerry Gray and the DB drills, because you see them backpedal, turn, and that kind of stuff.”

The defensive backs.

The defensive backs.

I look around. All three of the grass practice fields are in use – defense on one, offense on the other, and the kickers working out on the third. On the artificial turf field, DE Erasmus James continues his recovery work from his injury, working with strength coach John Hastings. It’s a lot to take in, so I ask Scott how he even figures out which field to focus on.

“I scan to see what they’re doing, and what drill best fits what I need to watch. Something where they’re actually in a full active drill, that’s what I go to.” He looks around the various position groupings, some in motion, some still clustered and listening. “At the start of practice, that’s really all you can do. The defensive backs are a good group, and the QBs and receivers.”

He points at the offensive linemen, who are starting to line up. “Once they get into this, they’ll start more of the inside drills, which are more fun for the scouts to watch. Usually they’ll do 7-on-7 drills while they’re doing pass block.”

Wide receivers in a quieter moment.

Wide receivers in a quieter moment.

Now that the offensive line is going, and the defensive backs, quarterbacks, and receivers are all still in action, the level of activity is impossible to entirely absorb, and I say so. “You can’t see it all at the same time,” says Scott, “but I know that it’s all being filmed. So I know I can go after practice and watch the tape as many times as I want, catch everything that really happened in the practice.”

Yes, I can see how that would help make order out of things.

“I mix it up day to day, too,” Scott says. “Today I’m with the DBs, tomorrow, I’ll probably watch the receivers. You’ve got to rotate, move around, see different things. At the start of a play, I’ll just scan who’s out there and say, there’s Carlos. They’ve got him out there, I’ll focus on him. The next play, I look around and say, oh, there’s Jason Taylor, I’ll watch him. You’ve just gotta float around or bounce around – you can only watch one or two guys at a time, and, again, I know it’s being taped.”

A bookshelf in Scott's office.

A bookshelf in Scott's office.

After practice, I head up to Scott’s office to get a look at the tape, and it’s fascinating. Everything looks so much clearer in the view from the cherry picker, and being able to rewind again and again makes things even easier. “What you’re going to see is, first the sideline shot so you can see the receivers, the DB reactions, the quarterback’s reads, and so on. Then it goes to the tight shot from the end zone, so I can watch the offense and defensive lines. It doesn’t follow the ball, it stays right there.”

Scott and the XOS system.

Scott and the XOS system.

This is a revelation. The “tape” is actually stored on computer, on an XOS System, and it allows Scott to pick and choose what footage he’s seeing – “If I just want to watch the sideline camera, I can do that, but I like watch both on the intercut for evaluation.”

For each play, Scott first lets it run on the wide view just to see what the play is. Then he replays as many times as needed to examine any specific players not on the line. After that, he does the same with the tight view, “analyzing who’s in there, watching the various assignements, and working right to left across the offensive line. Jansen first, then Randy, then working my way across to Samuels.” The whole process takes him around ninety minutes every day, and it’s where he gets most of his work done.

Watching tape.

Watching tape.

“You try to find the things you need to watch while you’re out there, but knowing it’s being taped, I don’t worry too much about missing something.”

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6 Responses

  1. Dude you are the man. This coverage is more than we have ever received. Just wondering what are Scott credentials. If you get to ask him what were his biggest misses and hits in a draft or free agencies.

  2. Dude you are the dude. Thie coverage is more than we have ever dreamed. Just wondering why the hell Scott still has a job? If you can, whack him in the head with something hard, drag him out, and shove him in your trunk. Then repeat with Danny and Vinny. Presto! You made the team better!

  3. King Killa – you are a dumb***. Shove yourself in a trunk and go away.

  4. King Killa,

    Go killa yourself.

    ASAP.

  5. Children, children. Keep things civil.

    Scott’s job qualifications were listed much earlier, if you need to find them, use the search function and look it up. It serves little purpose to re-list information constantly that is available elsewhere.

    Good interview though, I’ve often wondered what type of video setup they’ve got going to record practices, I guess Zorn doesn’t have his own camera watching Greg Blache for signals?

    Just a suggestion for the blog, if at the end of the article instead, or in addition to the links to the previous and next article, is it possible to include 3-5 related posts for those who haven’t seen the earlier information say about where Scott Campbell came from and how he’s qualified himself for this.

    GJ Matt, keep on truckin’ or whatever it is they do over in Ashburn.

  6. […] Posted on August 8, 2008 by Matt Terl Over the course of this week, I’ve had the chance to watch practice with Scott Campbell, Director of Player Personnel, and I’ve talked to him about some of the team’s rookie […]

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