Toward the end of the 34-17 Redskin preseason victory over the Oakland Raiders last night, Ray Callahan, the offensive line coach approached quarterback Joe Theismann and said, "The pass blocking improved, didn't it?"
Two starters were missing from the offensive line as the Redsins produced their most exhibition-game points since the 1976 preseason.
"I'm proud of our depth, but we've got too many players out," said Coach Jack Pardee. "I was well pleased with the way that Fred Dean filled in three quarters. They've got a big line and we were able to run the ball some, too."
With tackle Terry Hermeling out, Dean, who had been playing in place of the injured Jeff Williams at right guard, moved to left tackle. Gary Anderson played right guard.
For three possessions, the Redskin offense provided little pass protection or good run blocking, hurt by missed assignments and holding penalties. Then Bobby Hammond returned a kickoff 59 yards, the line started blocking and Theismann got hot.
He led the Redskins to three straight touchdowns, completing 10 of 11 passes at one stage as Washington led at the half 21-10.
"We just started playing better, that's all," said center Bob Kuzel. "I missed a block and gave up the first sack and the fumble."
He called the play of the Washington reserves "very encouraging." But, he tempered his enthusiasm with this warning: "The exhibition season has value, but I wouldn't put too much on expectations for the regular season on exhibition games."
Kuziel continued: "It's good in it gives us confidence in our ability to the ball into the end zone and our defense is doing a consistent job and the thing is -- we've got to get hungry, come out of the box this year and get a string of wins together. Then all this work will be worthwhile."
Theismann, the beneficiary of the improved blocking, was gushing over this win that made the Redskins 3-0 in the preseason. Pardee called his quarterback "sharp as a tack."
"It got to be fun there for awhile." Theismann said. "But it was hell in the beginning."
Theismann assessed that the Redskins are 25 percent further advanced in training camp this season than in 1979.
"Last year we were just learning the system and learning to believe in ourselves," Theisman sai. "This year, the belief is here. Now it's a matter of executing and just trying to improve each week."
Pardee said he played the regulars longer this week in order to see how they would hold up in the heat. He said he also wanted to test some players and that is why they played more.
He pointed to Perry Brooks, starting in place of Diron Talbert at right defensive tackle, and wide receiver Zion Mckinney, a key figure and touchdown pass-catcher in the two-minute drill that made it 21-10 at halftime.
"Being a warm night and against a big team, we just tried to get a measure of how far Perry has come in his conditioning," Pardee said. "We usually do a lot of substituting, but we wanted guys to get good and tired tonight."
Pardee gave Broke and his entire defensive line, which produced five sacks, high grades; without even seeing the films.
Of McKinney, a free agent from South Carolina, Pardee said he wanted to see how he would react playing against a first-team defense for the first time.
Pardee also said that his substitution pattern last night should not necessarily be interpreted as the way the Redskins are leaning for the cutdown to 50 players by 4 p.m. Tuesday. The Redskins have 60 players on the active list, plus Jeris White and John Riggins, who are carried in a special inactive category.
The Redskins will play the Raiders, again in four weeks, when it counts for real. So, although they geefed on the field about a number of calls, including a touchdown catch by Ricky Thompson, the Raiders blamed only themselves afterward.
"No excuses," said Coach Tom Flores. "We just didn't play well. We had one good quarter, then nothing."
He and his players cited the RFK Stadium crowd, Hammond's kickoff return and subsequent touchdown and an enusing 75-yard kickoff return by Malcolm Barnwell that the Raiders got no pointers out of as the key factors in the change of momentum.