There will be times this National Football League season when Redskin starting linebackers Brad Dusek, Neal Olkewicz and Pete Wysocki will jog off the field after the opposition makes a first down. Monte Coleman, Rich Milot and a defensive back will replace them.
Or, say it's second and 10. Perhaps Dusek will remain in the game and the nickel back will stay on the bench, because of the slightly greater possibility that the opposition will call a running play.
In their never-ceasing search to field the best personnel in any given situation, thus gaining a small edge, the Redskins plan to utilize down-and-distance substitution even more extensively this season.
The exact substitution patterns will not be established until after the third exhibition game -- in less than two weeks -- but there is no doubt that the Redskins are fine-tuning a system that Coach Jack Pardee instituted out of necessity last year and parlayed into a 10-6 season.
George Preston Marshall, the team founder, would never recognize these Redskins. Marshall's main man, quarterback Sammy Baugh, not only led the NFL in passing, he punted and set a team interception record that has been surprassed by only one other Redskin.
In 1980, this is the team of the specialist. Milot's switch from outside to middle linebacker gives the Redskins two fine coverage men backing up the starters, who are strong against the run. Dusek has always played against the run and the pass, but this season he may be the odd man out when the Redskins use just two linebackers and five defensive backs.
Olkewicz was the linebacker who sat down for the nickel back last season.
Defensive coordinator Doc Urich is cooking up some other variations in pass coverage. He says the Redskins might use a three-man rush of a five-linebacker alignment, a strategy that would be deployed against a quarterback who is not a running threat.
Pardee said today he does not like to call his players starters and substitutes. In the case of the linebackers, they can better be identified with RLB, for those who play the run strong, and PLB for those who cover the pass better.
The purpose of the substitution system is two-fold, Pardee said. It keeps players fresh, sometimes lengthening careers; and it gets the best possible matchups on the field.
"We get the most out of the talent we have," Pardee said. "The Steelers don't use the nickel back; their linebackers cover. It doesn't mean we're right or wrong. It's just the way we do it."
The absence in camp of running back John Riggins and cornerback Jeris White has muddled the picture on backfield substitutions, where there figured to be flexability offensively and defensively.
Offensive Coordinator Joe Walton said the offensive substitutions "could be the same, could be a little more, depending on how some people can do. We're looking at a lot of personnel, how they fit the puzzle.It depends on how they perform the next two weeks; that will solidify who will be best on what down and distance."
A sticky problem facing Walton, one that could be solved by a trade, is how to most effectively deploy Clarence Harmon and Buddy Hardeman, the valuable third-down, pass-catching backs of last season, if Riggins does not return to camp.
"We want to keep people fresh and take advantage of their talents to the utmost," said Walton. "At wide receiver, if these young kids come through, I can see the possibility of going with four, instead of the three we used last season.
"It's the same with the backfield position. If a couple are just good runners and blockers, it frees others for passing. If the other guys don't come through, then we might have to do double duty for Clarence and Buddy.
"The young guys have progressed and the question is: will they continue to progress? Do they make the same rookie mistakes or do they get better?"
Depending on how the younger players perform, Walton said he can foresee the following scenarios:
Harmon and Hardeman coming out on second down and returning on third; in order to take advantage of their pass-catching.
Ike Forte and Bobby Hammond being good enough receivers that they sometimes would replace Harmon and Hardeman on third down, and remain in for the possible first-down play in order to give the starters a rest.
And, he said, fullback Don Testerman is strong on short-yardage situations.
"We want to make sure," Walton said, "that we have the right people in at the right time for what we want to do."
Redskin General Manager Bobby Beathard said he virtually has given up hope that White, obtained from Tampa Bay for wide receiver Danny Buggs and a fourth-round draft choice, will play for the team at all this season. Neither white nor his agent, Howard Slusher, are returning Beathard's phone calls.
However, Urich said that second-year cornerback Ray Waddy, whom the Redskins had some doubts about, is having a fine camp and has developed into a good "force" man against the run. It had been envisioned that White would play right cornerback in running situations and Joe Lavender in passing situations. Lemar Parrish, on the other corner, is one of the best in the game at forcing the run or stopping the pass.
Therefore, Urich said, Tony Peters still will be use mainly at safety this season, sometimes replacing Ken Houston at strong safety and sometimes playing alongside him when Houston occasionally replaces Mark Murphy a free safety, another experiment at this camp.
"I love it (the down-and-distance substitutions)," said Walton. "It gets more guys involved. You're fresher at the ends of games and everybody knows their role."
Beathard said he has not talked to Riggins this week and does not plan to "right now." The general manager obviously feels that the strong showing by Redskin running backs against the Colts in the exhibition opener has improved his bargaining position . . . Joe Lavender, who was suffering from a bad case of intestinal flu, returned here this afternoon and the cornerback was admitted to Carlisle Hospital. Pardee said he expects Lavender to be released Wednesday morning . . . Right guard Jeff Williams probably will spend two to three more days in Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington and may not be able to workout for two weeks, Pardee said . . . After a lackluster practice Monday afternoon, Pardee called today's workouts "Good, fine . . . Days like that keeps the coaches happy" . . . Pardee said quarterback Joe Theismann needs game work and he has not decided how long, or if, reserve quarterbacks Kim McQuilken and Mike Kruczek will play Monday night at Cleveland. "If you work all three, it's going to be unfair to one of them, and we have to get Joe the work he needs."