Before the Redskins' first preseason game, Coach Joe Gibbs thought his players were progressing nicely through the early stages of training camp. But yesterday, he changed his opinion drastically.
"We should be further along than where we are right now," Gibbs said after reviewing films of Washington's stumbling 24-7 loss to Miami Saturday night. "I was pleased with the way we practiced last week but now it's obvious we have a lot of work to do. I'm very disappointed. I thought we were beyond this type of performance."
That upcoming work will be concentrated mainly on reducing the errors that contributed to the Redskins' 0-5 start last season. The more Gibbs watched the films of the loss to the Dolphins, the more he saw replays of early 1981.
"That's what makes this difficult," he said. "It reminded me of last year against Philadelphia. We would move the ball well and be controlling the game and then we'd make the big error.
"That kept happening Saturday. For sure, the one thing I didn't want to see was a lot of mistakes."
Before Saturday, Gibbs probably had decided that the early '81 season was just a bad memory. The Redskins had reduced turnovers during the final 11 games of 1981, when they performed like a playoff caliber team. But everything came back to haunt them against Miami: two interceptions, three lost fumbles, 92 yards in penalties and seven sacks allowed.
But the regular season won't start for almost a month. And weren't many of those mistakes made while second- and third-stringers were playing?
"I don't care if it was preseason or not," Gibbs said. "And I don't really care who was on the field, although it might make our squad cuts easier. There shouldn't be any of that. For this team to play well, it can't be doing those things and that's something we have to realize right from the very start.
"We just have to get to work on Monday and go over the films with the players and start correcting things. But in spots we played good, especially in the first quarter. Later on, I thought the defense got tired from being on the field too long and didn't look as sharp. We should have been crisper in the second half. Remember, Miami was in a preseason game, too, and they didn't look like we did."
Gibbs will have the most trouble forgetting Miami's final touchdown. That came after nose guard Ed Weaver recovered a fumble by Tom Flick and ran 28 unimpeded yards for the score.
The early stages weren't so discouraging. That was when Washington took a 7-0 lead and had a chance to be ahead, 10-0, at the start of the third quarter. But once the regulars left and Gibbs began making major substitions, Miami took control.
"I'm trying to be realistic about what happened," said Gibbs. "We outhit people in a lot of cases and some guys got off to a very fast start. I can take encouragement from those things."
Gibbs didn't have any questions about his running game entering this camp, so it was no surprise when John Riggins, Joe Washington and Wilbur Jackson performed well. But in at least two areas of concern, he saw some progress.
"Four outside receivers did well," he said. "We liked how Alvin Garrett, Charlie Brown, Art Monk and Virgil Seay all performed. And (rookie) Mike Williams played really well at tight end for his first time out of the blocks. He gave some real crips shots down field."
Williams, the fifth-round pick from Alabama A&M, and defensive end Todd Liebenstein, No. 4 from Nevada-Las Vegas, played the best of the rookies. Gibbs said receiver Carl Powell, No. 3 from Jackson State, "is coming along and playing as much as he can and working hard," but remains tentative on some assignments. Powell's hesitation is slowing him, and his speed in college was what attracted the Redskins originally.
Gibbs also praised center Jeff Bostic, guards Fred Dean and Mark May, linebacker Larry Kubin and safety Tony Peters.
What makes the Redskins' performance even more disappointing is that it came against a team that was limited by injuries entering the game. But the less-than-healthy Dolphins grew stronger as the night went on, limiting Washington to only one legitimate scoring threat after halftime.
The Dolphins got solid performances from two young players, quarterback Jim Jensen and running back Larry Cowan, a college teammate of Powell's. And veteran quarterback Don Strock moved the team well during his brief appearances, even though receiver Nat Moore and back Tony Nathan were absent because of injuries.
Receiver Cris Crissy broke a cheekbone; no surgery will be needed. . . Linebacker John Schachtner (No. 7, Northern Arizona), who did not suit up Saturday, will undergo surgery to repair ligament damage to his right foot that he injured in college. He will be placed on injured reserve . . . Other injuries from the game: tight end Clint Didier (thigh bruise) and cornerback LeCharls McDaniel (concussion) . . . Miami center Mark Dennard broke his upper arm while blocking on a third-quarter running play. Coach Don Shula said he expects Dennard, a fourth-year pro from Texas A&M, to be out six weeks . . . The Redskins will play in Tampa against the Buccaneers Saturday.