Pro football increasingly is becoming a game of specialists and matchups, nickel-and-dime formations and down-and-distance situations.

And no team in the National Football League is more tied to this new trend of increased personnel use than the Redskins, who have raced to a surprising 4-2 record in part because the coaching staff has realized, in essence, that one and one sometimes equals one.

By alternating two players at a certain position, the coaches are trying to utilize the strengths of both while covering up the weakness of each.

Never will that be more evident than this week against Cleveland, the NFL's No. 1 offensive team. The Washington defense, as promised by Coach Jack Pardee, will employ a horde of palyers in an attempt to both confuse and upset the Browns.

"You've got to recognize the strengths of the players you have and what they can do for you," defensive coordinator Doc Urich said. "I think the success of the nickel and dime passing defenses has helped launch the rest of what is going on.

"And I think there is more refinement in coaching and the recognition of the fact that you can fit personnel against personnel. Traditionally, it's always been that you put your best 11 out there and what happens, happens. but not anymore."

The Redskins especially recongnize that they don't have the overall strength, either on offense or defense, to use only 22 players each game. instead, they've become sophisticated in the art of adjustments.

On a typical passing down for an opponent, for example, Urich now sends in end Joe Jones and tackle Perry Brooks (for Diron Talbert and Dave Butz) while shifting Karl Lorchfrom end to tackle. Together with Coy Bacon, these players are his best pass rushers.

At the same time, the Redskins put in an extra (nickel) back, rookie Ray Waddy, or they can go with six defensive backs and just one linebacker. If Waddy alone is sent in, middle linebacker Don Hoover goes to the sideline.

There also have been instances when Tony Peters, normally a safety, is used at cornerback so that Joe Lavender can blitz or guard against what the Redskins consider a sure running situation.

The defense also can switch to a 3-4 alignment on running downs, then to nickel on passing situations.

"It used to be that you used nickel on third downs," said Urich, "but against Atlanta, we matched up against personnel completely. if they sent in three wide receivers, then we'd go to nickel on first down.

"It makes sense. The percentages are with you that if they are in a passing set or a passing situation, they'll pass. So why not have a guy in there like a defensive back who is better on coverage than a linebacker?"

These matchups -- strength against strength -- dominate the thinking of Redskin coaches. Matchups once were the province of basketball, especially on the pro level, but listen to Urich explain how he might substitute now at defensive tackle:

"If the guy we are going against is strong, really strong, then I'll use Paul Smith over Diron Talbert," Urich said. "Talby is smart and he has that good experience but he's not particularly strong; he never has been. But if they are trapping and such a lot, he'll play.

"But let's say we need a lot of agility in there, for pursuit purposes. Then I'll go with Perry Brooks and maybe sit down Dave Butz. But if we want power. Butz is the man."

The same probably will happen more at middle linebacker, where Neal Olkewicz -- like Smith -- is receiving large amounts of first-unit playing time this week.

Olkewicz is more aggressive and reckless than Hoover, but he also is prone to make more mistakes. So the Redskins, if they want to force opponent errors, could go with Olkewicz. But if they want to make sure assignments are carried out more precisely, Hoover gets the call.

Once, when the league had only 12 teams, there were enough quality players around to reduce the need for specialists. But with 28 teams, clubs are searching frantically even for decent part-time athletes.

And there are some fringe benefits from substituting. A youngster like Waddy receives valuable experience while being groomed eventually for a starting spot. Morale also is improved, especially during those arduous midweek practice sessions.

Jones, for example, takes his role so seriously that he has decided to donate $50 to charity for every sack he records this season.

"There is no doubt you keep everyone's attention better," Urich said. "But it's funny about this league. There are new trends but they run in cycles. Now, everyone is starting to run more on passing situations. If they don't make the first downs, then they kick. But it's better than risking an interception or a big loss on a sack.

"It still makes it tougher to prepare for us. Will Kenny Houston blitz? How many looks will we give them? As coaches, we just have to make sure things don't get too complicated. We don't want to give more than anyone can handle.

"And we still want to play good, basic, sound defense with our regular personnel. We're getting better, but it takes patience. There is no way we were going to do this overnight."

The Redskins continued to revolve the waiver door yesterday by releasing back Lonnie Perrin and reacquiring Ike Forte, who had been injured. Forte cleared waivers before being reclaimed.Pardee said Forte's experience with the club, especially as a kickoff return man, was the reason he was brought back. "Teams are kicking away from Buddy (Hardeman) and we've been shifting around. But now with Ike, we don't have to shift and maybe we improve our returns." Perrin, clamed earlier from Denver, had only two carries as a Redskin.