The Redskins will stay with their basic defensive alignment of four down linemen and three linebackers this season, George Allen said today.
During the offseason, Allen hinted he might turn to the 34 defense used successfully by the Super Bowl champion Oakland Raiders a year ago.
In the 34, there are three linemen, four linebackers and a lot of blitzing, and Allen said he was thinking about using it if the Redskin pass rush did not improve.
"I think these guys have come along well enough so that we won't have to utilize it," Allen said after a morning workout. "We're still going to put it in during camp, but it won't be our major defense.
"We've made our reputation with the 46 (his regular defense). "It's what you believe in, what you know completely and what you can teach."
Allen said a major factor in not going to the 34 was the development of several of his younger defensive linemen, particularly Dave Butz, who will start at tackle, and reserve defensive ends Karl Lorch ands Dallas Hickman.
"If our regular people can't do the job - and we think they can," said defensive coordinator Torgy Torgeson, "we think these other guys can come through for us if we need them."
Allen had said one of his major priorities going into training camp was to improve the pass rush, and in early rookie scrimmages against the Colts rookie scrimmages against the Colts and Eagles, Hickman and Lorch demonstrated they can penetrate quickly and get to the quarterback.
If the Redskins had gone to the 34 defense, they very likely would also have a switched Hickman, a 6-foot-6, 235-pound third-year man, to an outside linebacking position to utilize his speed and quicknes.
Hickman has run the 40-yard dash in 4.7 seconds, making him the swiftest lineman, offensive or defensive, in camp.
Last year, Hickman harnessed that speed as one of those fearless and reckless young men on the special teams, a wedge-buster whose specially was wreaking havoc on opposing temas' kickoff returners, not to mention his own body.
Special teams' coach Paul Lanham recalled that Hickman was knocked out early in the first half of last year's critical victory over San Francisco.
"A couple of minutes before half-time, he came to me and said he was ready to go back into the game," Lanham said. "I asked him what his uniform number was, and he had to think a second. Then he looked down at his chest and said '82'. I told him he better wait until the second half."
Hickman's head cleared sufficiently that day for him to play again, and he made a crucial tackle on one kickoff return at the 49ers' seven-yard line. EVen after a teammate was penalized 15 yards for piling on, Hickman's tackle put the 49ers in a deep hole and played a significant role in the Redskin victory that day.
Hickman would also like to play a significant role on the Redskins as a defensive end, but he is also a realist.
"Sure, I'm itchy," he said, "but you have to be patient. Dennis Johnson (the starting right end) is looking really good right now, and I just don't have the experience.
"But I'm still a young guy. I was injured my first year (with a separated shoulder) and last year was the first time I really played. I've never even played a full quarter at defensive end in a game. Thios year, they've said they'll use us in the preseason, and I hope I'll get some of that experience."
The coaching staff was not especially pleased with Johnson's performance in 1976, although they also realize he was hampered most of the year with bad feet after dislocating several of his toes late in the preseason.
That is one reason they made defensive end Duncan McColl their first choice in the 1977 draft. McColl, however, has been bothered in camp by two sprained ankles, and Hickman has moved ahead of him.
With Johnson now hobbled by a pulled muscle in the groin area. Hickman probably will see considerable action at right end Monday night against the Browns in the Redskin preseason opener.
"There's no doubt in my mind that I could play the position if I had to," said Hickman, who has beefed up to 235 pounds after weighing only 215 as a rookie. "But they still don't know what I can do because I've never really played much.
"Getting off the ball is the key for me. Because of my weight. I've got to rely on my speed and my quickness. I have to beat them before they can get to me."
Hickman is one of those gems the Redskins like to boast about, because he was a ninth-round selection out of California-Berkeley.
He was versatile enough in college to play tight end, linebacker and defensive end, and when the Redskins had injury problems at tight end last year "they gave me a white shirt and an offensive playbook and started throwing passes to me," he said.
Hickman recently bought a small farm in Leesburg from teammate Bil Brundige, and he lives there surrounded by several dogs and cats. He fancies backpacking, poetry, snuff in the gum, Ernest Hemingway and, of course, getting to the quarterback.
Pat Fascher has strained muscles in his lower back, a condition that bothered him in camp last year, and will not play in Monday night's game against the Browns. Gerard Williams, a second-year man, will start in his place . . . The injury to Fischer is not serious, according to team physician Stanford Lavine, who said Fischer's availability is on a day-to-day basis . . . Running back Mike Thomas still hasn't signed and still isn't able to practice because of a pulled hamstring, and also will miss the trip . . . Diron Talbert was held out of practice today because of a bruise on his rib cage . . . Linebacker Joe Harris has missed the last two days of practice because he was allowed to go home to Fayetteville, N.C., to be with his ailing mother. He is expected back in camp Saturday . . .