Fulton Walker is the Miami Dolphins' left cornerback by default, a rookie called Stump who looks up to anyone 5 feet 10 or taller and who arrived in the Orange Bowl today absolutely certain the Redskins would go after him.

He is grateful, and astonished, that they did not.

"They didn't jump on me like I figured," he volunteered. "I haven't figured out why yet. I was ready to be picked on. But they tested me early, saw I could make the plays (against the run) and still be deep when I had to be deep."

To anyone not familiar with the Redskins, and to more than a few who are, today's strategy seemed the ultimate in silliness, devised by coaches who had seen one game film too many, as though Joe Gibbs had said to himself, "How can I make winning as tough as possible for my team?"

Those were not fish manning the secondary for the Dolphins; they were the remains of a smelly unit battered for 1,500 yards and 10 touchdowns the previous three games. If hardly helpless, they certainly were capable of being shot out of the water by one of football's ranking offensive wizards.

"I'd have thrown against 'em," the winning pitcher, David Woodley, admitted.

The Redskins ran. Against a team that surrenders acres on pass plays, the Redskins threw half as often as they have against decent defenses. Even George Allen scolded them for being too conservative.

It would seem Gibbs has been beaten into his senses instead of out of them. A man would be foolish, soon unemployed, not to review all those pass-crazy games that ended in blowout losses and not decide that circling the wagons was more prudent.

Now the Redskins are obsessed with not losing games. They are determined to make the opposition beat them.

This is progress.

And dull.

It also was the closest defeat of the Redskins' 1-6 season, an affair uncertain until the tender-ribbed Woodley completed a pass half the length of the field to a gimpy-wristed receiver with just under two minutes left. Listening to everyone involved relive it is almost painful, for it looked much guttier than they described.

Here were the Dolphins in stark contrast to the Redskins on third and 13 at their 29. Instead of a run or safe pass, then a punt, Don Shula demanded a long pass from a guy for whom coughing had been a chore a week ago. When a grenade seemed in order, with a three-point lead, he ordered a bomb.

"An easy decision to make," said Woodley. "I guess." He smiled and added, "I didn't make it."

Shula did, and took half the fun out of it with this straight-faced explanation: "They were in man coverage; everything we do is dictated on beating that."

Woodley added that the two bad circumstances on all pass plays were not all that harmful on this one.

"If it's incomplete," he said, "we punt. If it's intercepted, that's just as good as a punt. If it's complete, it's a big play."

It was complete.

Why gets a bit complicated, for it involves a slow-footed catcher beating a gifted cornerback.

"Speed has very little to do on a takeoff," Jimmy Cefalo said of the down-the-left-sideline pattern that lost Joe Lavender. Guile has everything to do with it.

"He (Lavender) was in bump-and-run coverage," Cefalo said, "and I got just a bit behind him early. He was trailing me, so I stutter-stepped slightly, like I was going to break the pattern off. He had to respect that. He held back, and then I took off deep."

Lavender agreed:

"He set it up. I had to go for it, and he gave me that extra move. And Woodley put it out there good."

Indeed he did.

"Wonderful pass," said the Dolphins' left guard, Bob Kuechenberg, "and I happened to see the catch."

How? He was supposed to have had his helmet in a Redskins' number at the time, be involved with keeping Woodley alive instead of standing and watching. Why had an all-pro suddenly taken his mind off his work?

"I wasn't that busy," he said.

Probably, that is why the play was called, why it worked so smoothly, why Lavender must publicly assume blame for a game-turning play that was not entirely his fault.

Lavender was gracious.

"A good receiver who blends his speed with good moves," he said of Cefalo, in the game at that time because a better receiver (Nat Moore) had been sidelined with a knee injury. "Give them a lot of credit."

They had been given more credit here than they wanted. It had seemed a serious gamble for Shula to test the Redskins' strength with less than his best receiver.

"It's hard to judge what's in a man's heart," Lavender said.

"I'm just supposed to throw away from the weak safety," said Woodley, in the matter-of-fact way of a man who had done that twice against Washington and could do it again. He wore a flak jacket today, but did not experience that much flak.

"Cumbersome," he admitted. "Like an extra set of shoulder pads."

Like the Redskins so often earlier in the season, the Dolphins today moved well between the 20s in the first half but could not muster a touchdown. Unlike themselves the first five games, the Redskins probed and proved, played the sort of Allen-like football their former coach faulted from his commentator's perch.

Quarterback Joe Theismann tested Walker long early, and the rookie made an over-the-shoulder interception. It took injuries to two other corners for Walker to earn starting status today, but he earned instant respect, was not bothered too often the rest of the game.

"Got to go with your strength, what got you there," the other corner, Gerald Small, said. It was not necessary for him to elaborate. What got the Redskins in this mess is injuries and trying to accomplish too much with too little, trying to force designer jeans onto a body more suited to overalls. The fun has been taken away from losing, because that has been the easiest way to lose.