There may be bigger mismatches in the National Football League this season. After all, New Orleans must play Philadelphia. But for openers, the Redskins' fuzzy-cheeked offensive linemen taking on Dallas' famed front four will suffice.
One thing that Sunday's confrontation at RFK Stadium will give the Redskin rookies will be tales to tell small children. "Yes, your old granddad played his very first professional game against one of the best front fours of all time."
Actually, Doomsday II, Doomsday Jr., or whatever nickname is finally settled on, hasn't reached that lofty status yet, but the person who is in the best position to know thinks it has a chance to be rated that high.
Ernie Stautner, a Hall of Famer and the Cowboys' defensive line coach since 1966, already is speaking with great pride about his latest combination of tackles and ends, although Sunday will be the first time the line will start a regular-season game as a unit.
From left to right, the youthful Redskin line will have to contend with Too Tall Jones, John Dutton, Randy White and Harvey Martin -- all candidates for the Pro Bowl. Dutton is replacing the retired Larry Cole.
"They have the capabilities of being as good or better than the original Doomsday group," Stautner said, referring to the foursome of George Andrie, Bob Lilly, Jethro Pugh and Cole.
"You must realize that another factor comes into comparing the groups," the nine-time all-pro defensive end and tackle pointed out. "The rules have changed as far as blocking is concerned. This has made it more difficult for the defensive linemen to escape. Offensive linemen are permitted to use their hands, and officials are much more lenient on holding. Offensive linemen have an advantage they didn't have before."
If the present group has a ringleader, it is the quiet, unassuming White, a three-time all-pro tackle from Maryland who recently signed a three-year contract making him the highest-paid defensive lineman ever.
"It's a load off my mind," he said about his reported $200,000-a-year contract. "This is the side of the business I don't like to deal with, but I guess it's part of it. Now I can concentrate on what I do best: play football."
The way White plays has been likened to a short-range colonial muzzleloader. He puts all his energy into each firing, then once the action is over, quietly reloads and focuses his complete attention on the next shot.
"I can't believe my career has gone so quickly," he said when asked if he would see any of his old friends from Maryland this weekend. "It seems like just yesterday I was in college. Now I look at a game program and there by my name it says seven years and I think, where did it go?"
It may surprise some to know that the 28-year-old "Manster" (half man, half monster) is the baby of Dallas' latest front four. Martin is 31, and Dutton and Jones are 30.
"It's hard to tell how good this group will be, because we haven't played that much together," White said. "All I know is that makes my job a lot easier playing next to guys like this."
When pressed to expand on his comparison of this group and other outstanding front fours he has coached since joining the Cowboys, Stautner made it sound like the best was yet to come.
"There are a lot of similarities between these guys and the first Doomsday group," he said. "White is like Lilly, Jones is probably like Andrie, and Dutton is similiar to Pugh. There is no comparison between the other two, though. They're different players. Martin is the prototype pass rusher. Cole was the big play man. He made four touchdowns against the Redskins and often came up with key tackles on short-yardage situtations when our offense needed the ball."
The Doomsday defense is etched in Cowboys' lore, but starting Sunday that fabled foursome will be strongly challenged. And as soon as the four step on the field, they will have done something the old group never did: They'll be wearing those newly designed dark blue jerseys.