Federals Coach Ray Jauch said yesterday he was impressed by Sunday's performance of rookie quarterback Mike Hohensee and "he will get a lot of consideration" as the team's starter when Washington plays the Express in Los Angeles Monday night.
"I don't think we're settled on it yet," Jauch said after reviewing films of the 28-7 loss to the Chicago Blitz at RFK Stadium. "He seems to get things moving quite a bit when he's in there. But we can still use two guys no matter which way we go.
"We haven't had a chance to talk about it yet, though. We'll do it in the next day or so, and that guy will get most of the work at the position."
After replacing starter Kim McQuilken in the second quarter, the rookie from Minnesota appeared to gain his professional bearings as the gray, rainy afternoon wore on. He finished with 16 completions in 28 passes for 178 yards and a 19-yard scoring pass to Walker Lee with eight seconds left in the game.
It would seem clear that the Federals desparately need a passing game. With McQuilken quarterbacking, the Blitz defensive linemen did not worry much about the pass and never took their eyes, and hands, off offensive mainstay Craig James. "There's no doubt," said Jauch. "We need a full team in order to free Craig."
The Federals must improve in some areas in order to compete with next Monday's opponent, Los Angeles. The Express defeated the New Jersey Generals, 20-15, Sunday, holding star runner Herschel Walker to 65 yards..
Monday's teams share a similar deficiency: inexperienced, uneven offensive lines. The Federals spent $2 million to have former Southern Methodist star James not only fill the stands but reel off enough 100-yard games to power the offense. James gained only 34 yards on 14 carries against Chicago.
In addition, the Blitz defensive line gave McQuilken and Hohensee little time to throw, sacking them three times and forcing McQuilken to fumble twice.
"We do have to shore up the offensive line, but they're young and you can't do it all right away," Jauch said. While tackles Dave Pacella and Joel Patten had their moments, guards Myke Horton and Chris Dolce did not appear able to fend off opponents.
Another problem was punter Steve Hoffman. With an average of 33.9 yards in nine punts, he helped allow the Blitz to begin most of their drives around midfield.
Jauch has said since training camp that James, who averaged 44.9 yards as a punter for SMU, would be used to kick if necessary. Yesterday, former Redskins punter Mike Connell worked out with the team, and, Jauch said, "We are looking at the situation. Again, no decisions have been made."
It is unlikely the Federals will play against another passing combination as dangerous as the one they faced Sunday. Veteran National Football League quarterback Greg Landry may creak when he throws, but rookie wide receiver Trumaine Johnson made middle age easy for Landry, catching 11 passes for 158 yards and a touchdown in his first game as a professional.
Perhaps the most spirited showing on an otherwise dreary day for the Federals was by the old men of the defensive line, 31-year-old Ron Estay and 39-year-old Coy Bacon. Had they not applied the pressure they did, Landry might have doubled his total of 251 passing yards. Middle linebacker Ed Baxley also played well, having 10 tackles and two assists.
Jauch may not "die a little" when he loses, but he knows the task before him: "The fans were just great today, but I think we disappointed them as much as we disappointed ourselves. That's got to change."
So, too, does the shape of the team. Hohensee said after the game, "We've been kind of lax in our conditioning."
"I think some of that is because we haven't been able to play a total football game," Jauch said. "It takes game conditions to have game conditioning. I told the players that after the game. We'll do some extra running this week. We'll be all right."
The Federals reported no serious injuries, but tight end Phil DuBois had a knee strain, defensive tackle Bennie Smith had a sprained ankle, linebacker John Zupancic a nose laceration, Hohensee a contusion on his jaw and safety Doug Greene a muscle spasm on his left side. All should be available in Los Angeles.