Still not ready to commit himself on a starting quarterback for the regular season. Redskin Coach Jack Pardee insisted yesterday the position remains open and that veteran Billy Kilmer will make his preseason debut Friday night in Baltimore against the Colts.
Nevertheless, Pardee had another rove review for Joe Theismann, who started and finished at quarterback in a 20-12 preseason victory over the Green Bay Packers Friday night. He threw for two touchdowns and, more important, yielded no interceptions.
A year ago in the preseason, Theismann hit only 47 percent of his throws, and tossed up one interception for every 15 pass attempts.
Theismann has now gone eight straight quarters and 54 passes without having any picked off, has completed 55 percent, including three for touchdowns, and averaged almost nine yards per carry on the nine occasions he has been forced to scramble out of the pocket.
That dimension of mobility is the one major advantage Theismann has in his battle with Kilmer, and Pardee said yesterday, "I've been very impressed with Joe's ability to get yardage on his own and get down or out of bounds without getting hit. When you can do that, you really give the defense a lot of extra problems.
"I thought he played a super game in the first half. And when we needed in score in the fourth quarter, he got us in there, too. I really didn't know very much about Joe before the preseason, and I've been very pleased with him. He's making excellent decisions on who to throw to and he's thrown the ball well. We had several passes dropped in both games so his percentage could be a lot higher."
But Pardee gave no hint as to who he is leaning toward for the regular-season opener against the New England Patriots Sept. 3.
"We still haven't seen Bill yet, and I think he'll play well, too." Pardee said, adding that he would like to give Kilmer at least 30 plays against the Colts Friday night in Baltimore.
"I don't know who will start," he said "but it really won't make a difference. Whoever is in the game will be working with the first unit, so it really doesn't matter. They'll both get the benefit of working with the regulars.
"I think Billy recovered (from a sore knee and sore arm). His arm was a little sore early last week but by Thursday it was a lot better. Now with another few days rest (the Redskins will not resume workouts until Monday), he should be in good shape."
Pardee is still deeply concerned about the grabbing tactics of his offensive line. There were six holding calls in the Packer game and the Redskins have been penalized 19 times for losses of 158 yards in their first two exhibitions. Theismann has also been sacked 11 times for losses of 102 yards and one safety over the last two games.
"All the sacks are not the fault of the line," Pardee said. "But the penalties do have to be eliminated. We do have to have people blocking without holding. I still think our line has made great improvement and we have the people who can do the job."
There is no question the line is consistently opening holes for the back. A week ago in Minnesota, the Redskins averaged 4.5 yards per carry and they improved that to 4.7 yards against the Packers. Green Bay gave up a total of 186 yards on the ground to a Redskin team playing without starters Mike Thomas (flu) and John Riggins (sprained toe). Both should play against the Colts.
Theismann's scrambling helped make the rushing figures more impressive but fulback Clarence Harmon averaged six yards a carry against Green Bay and tailback Tommy Reamon 3.7. Reamon also caught five passes, including one for a touchdown that settled the issue in the fourth quarter.
Pardee also was delighted over the play of the Redskins' special teams, particularly that of punt-returner Mike Williams. The rookie cornerback from Texas A&M had 87 yards on four returns, including a 40-yard effort to set up a field goal. He also forced a fumble on a punt return with a vicious tackle.
"It's still too early to say if he's another Eddie Brown," Pardee said. "But he's making all the right steps. I've been impressed with him going back to the first scrimmage against the Colts.
"He's got something about him that makes the first guy miss. He's demonstrated in four different games that he can catch the ball and get some yardage. Ten yards a return led the league last year and he's done that. We also had some excellent blocking. I thought the special teams played great."
Pardee said he also was impressed with the team's improved pass rush and added that the addition of the 34 defense has been a plus.
"So far we've been able to mix the 4.3, the 34 and our nickel and that gives offenses a lot of things to prepare for. I think we played them all pretty well and we'll keep using them."
The Redsins also managed to get through the Packer game with no major injury problems. Tight end Jean Fugett suffered a mild sprain of his right shoulder as he dove unsuccessfully for a potential six-point pass but Pardee said the injury was not serious. He should be available against the Colts.
Pardee and his staff returned to Carlisle last night to review the films and start making some decisions on player cuts before Tuesday, when the Redskins must get down to 60 players.
There are now 66 men on the roster. And two of them, cornerback Chuck Rodgers (broken collarbone) and offensive tackle Bill Siebolt (knee surgery) will probably be placed on the injured-reserve list and will be lost for the season. Four other players will have to sweat it out until Tuesday afternoon.
Pardee said he has not been able to reach Calvin Hill, but would try to call the retired running back last night or today for the purpose of talking him into rejoining the team . . . Hill said yesterday the has had no second thoughts about his decision to retire and that "I'm just trying to keep busy and get my life straightened asked him to return? "I don't know," out." What would he do if Pardee he said. "I haven't even thought about the possibility. I just know that right now I'm happy and kind of relieved."