After eight days in training camp, it's apparent that the Redskins are on the verge of receiving their most significant transfusion of draft help ever.
This is how well the young talent is playing here: Even two 12th-round picks, usually the long-shot selections of the draft, are seriously challenging for roster spots.
Those two, offensive tackle Donald Laster, a 290-pounder with raw talent from Tennessee State, and Jeff Goff, a quick linebacker from Arkansas, might be the most pleasant surprises in camp. But they are not the only reasons Redskin officials are encouraged.
There are 20 players in camp who were either drafted in 1982 (15) or in 1981 and have yet to play in an NFL regular-season game. Twelve of them have a fine opportunity to suit up on opening day against Philadelphia.
The Redskins had only 11 drafted players on their opening-day roster last season, by far the fewest in the league. More than half of the 45-man squad could be drafted players this season.
This would represent a significant breakthrough for General Manager Bobby Beathard, who has patched the roster for four years by trading and signing free agents while waiting for his commitment to the draft to pay off.
"We are excited by what we see each day on the field," Beathard said. "But we also realize injuries and other factors can change things around in a hurry. There is a lot of time left in camp and a lot of things can happen. But there is a good chance a lot of these young players are going to give us some quick help this year."
The draftees most likely will force Coach Joe Gibbs and his staff to make some difficult roster decisions in early September, when the squad must be cut to 45.
Barring injury or a turnaround in their performances, the Redskins will have a difficult time cutting cornerback Vernon Dean (No. 2 in 1982), receiver Charlie Brown (No. 8 in '81) and linebacker Larry Kubin (No. 6 in '81). They already are being counted on to play significant roles this season.
A step below them are Laster, Goff, tight end Clint Didier (No. 12 in '81), receiver Carl Powell (No. 3 in '82), tight end Mike Williams (No. 5 in '82), linebacker Lemont Jeffers (No. 6 in '82) and guard Gary Sayre (No. 5 in '81).
Didier can leap into the Dean group quickly by proving his blocking ability during preseason games. He already has the speed and size the Redskins want at tight end.
Williams is fast and rangy, which is what Gibbs wants, and Powell has the speed (9.4) that the team needs at wide receiver.
Sayre (6-5, 270), who walked out of camp last season, is a contender at backup guard. He's playing well, but his competition is talented: veterans Melvin Jones and Fred Dean.
Laster is the leading candidate for the backup tackle position behind George Starke and Joe Jacoby, according to Joe Bugel, the offensive line coach.
"He's a silker," Bugel said. "I mean, he plays well when the silks go on and the game starts... People were questioning his work habits but you can't fault them a bit."
Goff and Jeffers play with similar quick, athletic styles, the linebacker coach, Larry Peccatiello, said.
While at Arkansas, Goff was considered too small to be a pro linebacker.But he has grown to 223 pounds and has recovered from injuries to both wrists, sustained while in college.
"You could see in the films he has something special," Beathard said. "He was active and always involved. But no one else in the league was in, terested in him because of his size, so we felt we could wait until the last round to take him."
There are significant questions to be answered about a third group of choices, which includes quarterbacks Phil Kessel (No. 10 in '81) and Bob Holly (No. 11 in '82), defensive end Todd Liebenstein (No. 4 in '82), linebacker John Schachtner (No. 7 in '82) and kicker Danny Miller (No. 11 in '82).
If Gibbs decides to keep three quarterbacks, the third will be Kessel, Holly or free agent Chris Garrity of William and Mary. Liebenstein, who recently had major knee surgery, isn't strong enough to play in the NFL now but could eventually. Schachtner needs time to mature but has the aggressiveness the Redskins seek.