In beating Tampa Bay, 9-7, Saturday night, the Redskins might have given a preview of their offensive strategy this season: conservative play calling and heavy reliance on Mark Moseley's field-goal accuracy.
"I wouldn't call it conservative, I'd call it winning football," Coach Jack Pardee said, describing the opening preseason game at Tampa. "We have to be smart about it and go with our strengths."
Washington coaches evidently have concluded that the Redskins lack a "big play" man. So, instead of relying on spectacular gains, they will seek to curtail mistakes, control the ball and take full advantage of the golden toe of Moseley, who booted three field goals Saturday.
"We aren't going to be a one-man offensive show, a one-man team," said Pardee. "We aren't constructed that way. We have to have both the offense and defense do well.
"Mark is the best in the league so if we get into field-goal range, why not take advantage of him? If he can hit consistently from the 30- to 38-yard line, you're talking about, oh 47- to 52-yard field goals. A lot of teams don't have anyone who can do that for them.
"You have to decide. If you have third and long and you are within field-goal range, do you put it up and risk a sack or an interception, or do you set up the field goal? If he's hitting, why not use him?
"We threw more in the second half of last season than we did the first half and we had a lot less success. In the first eight games last year, our running and passing yardage was within 25 yards of being even. We'd like to have that type of consistency the whole season.
"People think that you have to throw to be wide open. I don't think that is true. You provide your own opportunities. We want to do what we can do well and not force anything."
Pardee did say he was unhappy that the team moved deep into Tampa territory "five times and couldn't get a TD.
"But I think that will come. We didn't do anything fancy last night for good reason. We had a makeshift offensive line in there a lot and one guy (Bill Bain) hadn't even practiced with us. But I was pleased they didn't have one quarterback kill on us.
"We were concerned about the line so we didn't use any deep drops. We used a lot of quick releases. That may be what we'll have to do if we can't protect the quarterback. We can't have 55 sacks or whatever it was last year. If we can protect him, then we can drop back deeper."
Pardee declined to get involved in any quarterback debate. Despite Kim McQuilken's fine play, Joe Theismann remains the starter, and barring a complete collapse, will occupy that spot opening game.
"I don't want a repeat of the BillyJoe thing," Pardee said. "Of course, there is competition for the spot. But Joe is in the driver's seat and he has the advantage.
"Kim needs a lot of work still. They both do. But his decision-making continues to be excellent. We are open-minded about this. If one moves the ball consistently and his decision-making is better and his completion percentage is better, we'd look at it."
Pardee made it plain that his eventual starters will be those who make the fewest mistakes. Against Tampa, the Redskins did not throw an interception, did not lose a fumble and completed 64 percent of their passes.
If Theismann suddenly develops a case of the intercepts or if his competion ratio collapses, McQuilken could challenge. That is the coaches' message to Theismann, evident in both their use and praise of McQuilken.
The Redskins escaped the game with few injuries. Reserve tackle Paul Smith sprained a knee but Pardee said he knew of no other significant problems yesterday, which was a day off for the players.
After watching films of the Tampa game, he said he was pleased with:
The pass protection provided both McQuilken and Theismann.
The work of free-agent tackle Greg Dubinetz, who started in place of Terry Hermeling, and the play of guards Jeff Williams and Ron Saul. "Williams is a full-grown man lining up in there," Pardee said. "Considering that this was his first game at guard, he did a fine job." Barring injury, Williams appears headed for a starting spot, just as the club had hoped - even if Dan Nugent recovers.
The fourth-quarter performance of reserve linebacker Don Hover, who was credited with five solo tackles in the period.Hover has been downcast over the challenge of the camp's rookie linebackers, who have been receiving most of Pardee's accolades, but yesterday the coach said Hover "played like a champion."
"We have a lot of work to do, but this was a first step," Pardee said. "We showed a lot of poise. Now we just have to keep on schedule."
Linebacker Pete Wysocki passed his first test as a starter. Pardee said Wysocki "just needs more time. He made a couple of major-league plays" ...Rookie tight end Phil DuBois, a free agent from San Diego State, played a standout game. The Redskins used their tight ends to bring in plays, a change from last season when wide receivers were utilized.... "Benny Malone blocked very well," according to Pardee...On defense, the Redskins achieved two objectives: they stopped Tampa's running and didn't let the Buc quarterbacks complete deep passes.