The Redskins are hoping this is the year Monte Coleman makes the transition from a spirited, reckless special teams athlete with exceptional potential to a polished linebacker capable of reading space-age offeses.

As Coleman stood in his locker stall last night, describing his third-quarter interception-touchdown that helped the Redskins win their first preseason game at RFK Stadium, it was obvious he was beginning to accept increasing responsibility.

"Our defensive line had already put pressure on the Kansas City quarterback," Coleman said. "He (Chief reserve quarterback Bill Kenney) had to dupm the ball off and he was trying to hit the back (Billy Jackson) in the right flat. We were in a man-to-man coverage and, fortunately, I was there."

Coleman stepped in, caught the ball and ran 28 yards into the end zone.

"I'm still not comfortable at linebacker," said Coleman, who said he doesn't think he has played himself off the special teams. "The important thing in my improvement is that i've started to read my keys as thecoaches have been teaching me. It takes me a long time to get goint. I need to get a good lick in the first series before the nervousness goes away."

It was important to Coleman to start next to Neal Olkewicz and Rich Milot. All three are third-year professionals and all played well in holding the Chiefs to 187 total yards last night.

Milot, an ex-Nattany Lion, also had an interception. "Neal said he was saving his for the Dallas game," Coleman said. "Neal gave us the nickname 'The Three Musketeers' a while ago. Tonight was our first time starting together and it felt very special."

In addition to the starters, reserve linebackers Farley Bell, Dave Graf and Mel Kaufman saw action and didn't embarrass themselves.

Coleman's interception rescued the Redskin offense, which moved the ball well much of the evening, but seldom into the end zone.

Still, Redskin Coach Joe Gibbs said he was satisfied with the offense, specifically Terry Metcalf and John Riggins.

"It was a good little test for John his first time out," Gibbs said. "He looked strong, aboaut like we expected." Riggins ran the ball six times for 17 yards and accepted congratulations after his return to Washington, but polietly declined to comment.

Metcalf, a former St. Louis Cardinal scatback, carried three times for 22 yards, including an exciting 14-yard run on a second-and-15 draw play from the Redskin five-yard line.

"It was just an off-tackle play," said Metcalf, who also overthrew a pass on a halfback option. "I don't think I've lost much from the old days. There's a lot more to come in Coach Gibbs' offense."