The Washington Redskins have been in training camp for three weeks now, and as they prepare for the rigors of a meaningless six-game preseason schedule, there's the feeling that nothing has changed from a year ago.
The same old faces with few exceptions are going to be manning the same positions. Of the more than 60 new football players Allen signed for camp, perhaps a half-dozen will make the team in some capacity when the games begin to count on Sept. 18
At the moment, the Redskins seem deep up and down the offensive line, at wide receiver, in the backfield and at linebacker.
They also have three quarterbacks capable of moving a team, a secondary that set an NEL record for stinginess on pass completions, and the best overall special teams in the NFL.
But all of this is now, before the hittings starts for real, even if the games aren't. In 1976, nine Redskins players were injured and lost for the season in the exhibition games, including the likes of Charley Taylor and Paul Laaveg.
"Our success all depends on how healthy we can stay," said quarterback Billy Kilmer.
If the regular season were to open Sunday, this is how the football team would shape up:
Quarterback: It's been a rugged three weeks for Kilmer - a one-night stand in the hospital for heat exhaustion, a nagging sore arm and a painful knee. He will be the Redskins starter as long as he can walk and throw a football at the same time.
Joe Theismann is ten pounds heavier and much stronger, but he will remain the backup. Brian Dowling is destined for the cab squad and the clipboard.
Running Back: John Riggings says he's putting his mouth "on hold" and will do hid talking with the football this season at fullback. Mike Thomas is being brought around slowly after setting a record by pulling up lame 20 minutes into the first football practice of the season.If they can get by the exhibition season, they cold become one of the most potent backfield combination in the club's history
Calvin Hill has been able to avoid the pulls and aches of a year ago. He says he's itchy to play, and he probablu will see more action this year. Bob Brunet is a cinch to make it because of his special skills on the sucide squads and his ability to play both full back and tailback.
Larry Brown retirement left an extra opening for a fullback and the battle between former WFL star Willie Spencer and former Cardinal reserve Eddie Moss should be interesting. Spencer has pizzazz, the body of a bull and problem legs. Mosss cramps up in the heat but is a hard-working journeyman who could make it on his dependable special-team play.
The two rookie draft choices - James Sykes and Mike Northington - will have troble making thr regular roster.
Wide receiver: The Redskins are loaded here although Taylor is taking his time getting back into shape and there is some question if his 35-year-old body can take a full year of pounding. Frank Grant will start, barring injury. If Taylor can play, Grant will be that much more effective.
Last year, the Redskins started the season with four wide receivers. Larry Jones should make it because of his kickoff returns skills, and the other job - or maybe two - is up for grads. Danny Buggs, James Thompson and Earl Thomas, Mike's older brother, have the best shot.
Tight end: Jean Fugett gets a lot of static about his waistline - his teammates call him "mashed potatoes" - but he is also one of the most talented tight ends in the league.
Jerry Smith is still making a lot of spectacular catches in practice, and should be on the active roster for what probably will be his final season. The Redskins kept only two tight ends last year. If they go with three. Reggie Haynes, the seventh-round draft choice, has a slight edge over free agent Bill Larson. If not, there's always the cab squab or injured reserve.
Offensive line: The Redskins have more depth here than at any time since Allen arrived in 1971. Tim Stokes will probably move in as starting left tackle this week: Laaveg and Ron Saul will battle all preseason to be left guard: Len Hauss is solid at at center: Terry Hermeting will return at right guard and George Starke will be the starting right tackle.
The Redskins probably will keep seven or eight linemen. The best of the rest are versatile center Bob Kuziel, who can play every position on the line: Ted Fritsch considered among the best snappers in the league for punts and placements, and young Dan Nugent, a 270-pound brute who runs like a big deer and should make it.
Defensive line: George Allen has said he will stick with the same front four - Ron McDole, Dave Butz, Diron Telbert and Dennis Johnson - that finished the 1976 season. Bill Brundige can play end or tackle in perhaps his final season. Defensive ends Karl Lorch and Dallas Hickman are valuable special teamers and should make it. Duncan McColl, the club's first pick in the 1977 draft, has been hobbled by sprained ankles. He seems a prime candidate for injured reserve, the better to regain his health and fatten up by another ten pounds for 1978.
Linebackers: Harold McLinton will remain the Redskins' man in the middle, despite the offseason acquisition of Greg Hartle from St. Louis. hartle's surgical knee is still bothering him, and the Redskins may give him another year to heal on injured reserve. Brad Dusek and Chris Hanburger are solid on the outside, and Rustly Tillman, the king of the special teams will back up McLinton.
The Redskins usually keep six linebackers, and the competition for the other two spots is mainly between holdovers Pete Wysocki and Stu O'Dell and newly acquired Joe Harris, a Canadian League import. This shapes up as one of the more intriguing battles of the preseason.
Secondary: Pat Fischer's early back problems are of deep concern to the Redskins, mostly because Fischer is 37. Every year, though, there is considerable doubt as to whether Fischer can make it through a full season and every year he's always around at the end.
Joe Lavender will open at the other corner and Jake Scott and Ken Houston will be the safeties. The Redskins kept seven defensive backs last year. Eddie Brown will make it because of his punt and kickoff-return prowess. Gerard Williams hould make it because he is the heir-apparent to Fischer. Brig Owens has the edge over rookie Mark Murphy for the seventh spot, but the Redskins will managed to keep Murphy around some how, some way.
Kickers: Placekicker Mark Moseley has no competition: punter Mike Bragg is pulling ahead of Merritt Kersey, who has been sensational in camp and probably will be picked up by another team once he is cut.