Coach Jack Pardee, already concerned about inconsistent tackling and crucial offensive mistakes by the Redskins, had another headache yesterday: potentially troublesome injuries to halfbacks Benny Malone and Ike Forte.
Malone, who has been plagued with leg problems since the start of training camp, strained a thigh muscle against Houston Sunday. Forte strained his back early against the Oilers and did not play in the second half.
Although they have not been ruled out of Sunday's contest at Detroit, Pardee was not certain yesterday how well either would be by the end of the week.
"If one of them doesn't come around, it could be a big problem," Pardee said. "We would have to consider adding someone to that position. It would not be good to go into the game Sunday so shy at the one spot."
While Pardee worried about his injuries, he also was aware of the dilemma in Detroit, where the Lions already have lost their first two quarterbacks, Gary Danielson and Joe Reed, to injuries.
Coach Monte Clark is left with veteran Scott Hunter and rookie Jeff Komlo, ex-De Matha star, but the club yesterday said it was considering bringing in a third quarterback. A spokesman would not rule out ex-Redskin Billy Kilmer as a possibility.
Malone, who gained 58 yards against the Oilers, probably will rest the leg during the week's early practice sessions. Forte's status depends on the progress of treatments.
Last week, the Redskins ran ex-Bronco Lonnie Perrin through a one-day tryout. He would be the most probable roster addition if the two injured players have more serious ailments than expected.
For now, Pardee said, he will use fullback Clarence Harmon at halfback and also give kick returner Buddy Hardeman more work at the position.
"You just don't want to overwork Buddy," Pardee said. "He's got enough right now working on returns. But we have to be prepared. Chicago lost three guys at fullback in one game this year already."
Harmon, the unsung workman of the Redskin offense, paired at times with John Riggins against the Oilers. In four carries, he gained 23 yards. Many of his teammates always have wondered why he does not receive more playing time, since he always has shown ability in practices and when he gets a chance on Sundays.
The halfback injuries come just when Pardee said he thinks the Redskins are on the way to becoming a decent running team. He said he saw encouraging signs against the Oilers, although he would prefer more consistency.
"We score from the 10 in three plays, something we couldn't do last year," he said. "But we also just barely made some first downs on short-yardage plays. Houston made them without any question. Of course, we didn't have Earl Campbell either."
Campbell's 166-yard performance in hot and humid RFK Stadium dominated Pardee's discussion yesterday of the 29-27 loss. And Campbell's effort obviously clouded any evaluation the staff could make of its supposedly improved rushing defense.
"I still think we are improved," Pardee said. "You don't run into an Earl Campbell every day. There are not many like him. We shut him off for a half, but games are 60 minutes long.
"We have to continue to work on our tackling. It's a concern. I knew we'd have trouble bringing him down and we did. But we have better tacklers on the field this year than we did last year, I'm sure of that. We are going to work extra drills on our tackling this week and just have to hope that will work."
Houston wound up gaining 199 yards on the ground and a whopping 365 overall despite an off day from quarterback Dan Pastorini. Last year, the Lions ripped off 374 total yards, including 231 by rushing, although the Redskins won, 21-19.
"I saw a lot of good things about the defense out there," said Doc Urich, the defensive coordinator. "For a half we did exactly what we wanted to. But we got tired in the fourth period, no doubt about it. We were out there an awful long time and the linemen especially got worn down.
"It will take time for everyone to get to know each other, for the secondary to work with the linebackers and so forth. You see it in a lot of cases. A team gets better and then all of a sudden, they become damn good. We expect to improve every week. Obviously, this week wasn't good enough."
Pardee has no plans to make changes in his linebacking corps, which now includes youngsters Don Hover and Rich Milot.
"They both made some good plays," he said. "We can't have a standoff in there. We have to have people on defense who cane make things happen, who can cause turnovers. And they both can."
Pardee said Milot started the Houston game over Pete Wysocki "because we wanted all the big, strong people in there we could. Rich will make mistakes but he is going to be an exceptional outside backer. We can live with their inexperience to gain their aggressiveness."
Wysocki, although obviously not pleased with the demotion from the spot he has been trying to win for five years, took it without comment. He blamed his benching on his play against Cleveland in the final preseason game "when maybe I played the run too soft. I was trying not to make mistakes so I played tentatively. That really is out of character for me. But this is a long season, a lot can happen."
After reviewing films of the Houston game, Pardee also:
Said the too-many-men-on-the-field penalty that nullified a 50-yard Mike Bragg punt and eventually set up a Houston field goal was caused when Hardeman, who had been sidelined with heat cramps after replacing Forte, rejoined the punting unit without telling anyone. Wysocki tried to get to the sidelines, but the Redskins were going on a quick snap and he was unsuccessful.
Defended his decision to take a holding penalty against Houston instead of allowing Toni Fritsch to try a 46-yard field goal. "Looking back at it, it turned out to be wrong," he said, "but from the way he had been kicking that day and from the score, I just didn't want to give them anything. They are too explosive."
Refused to comment on the last-second motion penalty against Jean Fugett that cost Mark Moseley a chance at a 55-yard field goal. Sources said the coaching staff felt Fugett was not in motion and that it was a bad call.
"It's been so long since we've won a league game (The Redskins now have lost six straight)," Pardee said, "but if we keep the same intensity we had against Detroit, we will be okay. We aren't worried about their quarterback situation.We have enough problems right here."
John Hilton, the special teams coach, said there would be a re-evaluation of whether he should be on the field or remain in the coaching booth during games. "It gives me a bad feeling not being down there and having something (the extra player penalty) happen like that," he said. Hilton presently talks to his players through a headset from the booth . . . Danielson passed for 220 yards against the Redskins last year . . . Urich said the Redskin goal was to hold Campbell to 100 yards and the Oilers to 150 on the ground . . . Said defensive tackle Diron Talbert about the defense, "We weren't aggressive enough. We aren't going to win many games giving up 29 points."