The perfect tight end, according to Joe Walton, the Redskins' offensive coordinator, "is one who can run and catch like a wide receiver and block like a tackle."

At the top of the list are Russ Francis of New England and Dave Casper of Oakland. The Redskins, with their big Monday night opener against Dallas coming up, have to settle for Phil DuBois.

They aren't complaining.

"I have confidence in him," Walton said. "I'd be worried if we had lost both Don Warren and Phil, but with Phil ready to go and with Grady Richardson to back him up, we should be okay."

The Redskins were in a state of near panic over their tight end situation after the final preseason game at Tampa Bay last Friday.

Starter Warren fractured the fibula in his left leg and his backup, DuBois, bruised a kidney. It was uncertain how long both would be out.

That uncertainty forced the Redskins into some roster moves they wouldn't have normally made.

Now, all indications are that DuBois will be near 100 percent for Monday night and Warren may be fit enough to play as well.

"The tight end is such a key to both the running game and the passing game; that's why it is so tough to replace them," Coach Jack Pardee said.

All-pro safety Ken Houston, whose job is to cover the opposition's tight end, agrees that it is perhaps the key position on the field. "The tight end determines the strong side of the formation so he's got to be a good blocker and to be really effective he has to be a good pass catcher, too. I've played against the best there are, and I can honestly say that we have two pretty good tight ends here. By having to use DuBois we won't be giving up much."

DuBois, a second-year Redskin who signed as a free agent out of San Diego State, said his kidney is fine now. "I didn't have any contact Wednesday but I did today and had no problem."

Another of the injured Redskins does have a problem, though. Middle linebacker Neal Olkewicz, who missed the Tampa game with a bad knee, twisted it again at practice yesterday, and, as a precautionary measure, was sent off the field early.

"His status for Monday hasn't changed much at all," Pardee said, "which means I still don't know how he will be. If he can't go, we'll plan to go with Rich Milot. He's ready."

DuBois' rise to probable starter status Monday night has come quicker than he envisioned.

"When I first came here I didn't know what my chances were of even making the team," he said. "Whatever they did with me was fine. I still feel that way."

What the Redskins did with DuBois was put him primarily on the special team. He appeared in 15 games, but didn't catch a pass.

Pass catching is his strong suit. The blocking has come a little slower. At 6 feet 2, 225 pounds, DuBois isn't particularly big and his experience at tight end is limited. He was a fullback his senior year in college and before that played tailback, defensive back and linebacker, as well as tight end.

"I just like to play," he said.

"Tight end is a hard position because you have to be able to both block and run past patterns.I know I still have a lot to learn. They aren't going to be running any special plays or not running some plays because I'm in there instead of Don," DuBois said. "We'll run the same plays we did with Don; hopefully, we'll run them as well. I know I can do the job and the fact that it's Dallas we're playing just makes it more exciting."

Even if DuBois doesn't catch a pass all night, he has to make himself a threat because if the Cowboys think he isn't they will double cover the Redskin wide receivers as well as the running backs on occasion. DuBois has to establish early that he is going to be a factor or it could be a long night for the Redskins.

Charlie Waters will be the Cowboy most likely assigned to DuBois in normal situations.

He's a little injured himself," DuBois said. "We'll just have to do what we can against him."

Assuming Warren is unavailable for anything but spot duty, Richardson becomes an important man.

When Warren and DuBois were injured and the Redskins were forced to find another tight end, there were others to choose from, but Richardson had been cut only a week earlier and was familiar with the Redskin system. There wasn't enough time to get a tight end unfamiliar with the Redskin system ready in time for Monday's game.

Richardson played in three games as a Redskin last season, but like DuBois, didn't catch a pass.

Ironically, the Redskins have decided to throw more to their tight ends this season. That is something that suits DuBois fine. That strategy is partly necessitated by what the defense is willing to give the Redskins.

With the wide receivers the Redskins now have and with the pass catching talent of their running backs, the defenses are going to be primarily concerned with stopping them. That leaves the tight end open.

"I know," said DuBois. "I know."