Finally, it seems, the Washington Redskins will make the change in the defensive secondary that coaches have been ruminating for several weeks: veteran Curtis Jordan likely will take over for Ken Coffey at strong safety this week.
"Let's just say it's something we're strongly considering," Coach Joe Gibbs said yesterday, after watching films of the defensive horrors perpetrated by the Redskins' secondary in Miami's 38-7 preseason victory Friday night at RFK Stadium.
"What that will do is allow us to bring Kenny Coffey along slowly. Our thought with Curtis is, he's a guy who has started before," Gibbs said. "We wanted to give Kenny the work and he got it. Now, we'll let him work in behind Curtis."
Such a move, beyond replacing one Texan with another, will add experience to the position vacated by Pro Bowler Tony Peters, who was arraigned last week on a drug trafficking charge. Jordan is an eight-year veteran, who started at all four secondary positions at one time or another for Tampa Bay, before coming to Washington two seasons ago. Coffey is a 23-year old first-year player, who has worked the hard way and learned the hard way, since taking over for Peters.
Jordan played free safety in the second half Friday night, and also played strong safety for several series in the third quarter.
"I thought I'd feel awkward moving to strong, but I didn't . . . Really, I think that's the logical move," said Jordan, 29. "It gives us quite a bit more experience, If we can get Jeris signed, it would be a completely new secondary . . . If they are going to move me to strong safety, I'm excited. But you never really know anything for sure until it happens."
"Kenny did not have a good game," Richie Petitbon, coach of the defense, said yesterday, in reference to the loss to Miami.
"We'll have to take a little time before making this (Jordan) move. There is always the possibility of a trade (for a strong safety). And we have the option of giving Coffey more time."
The later move seems unlikely. Petitbon is a coach growing more impatient with having to coddle his secondary. Besides Coffey, rookie Darrell Green is now the starter at left cornerback, the position usually filled by unsigned Jeris White, who is holding out.
Though Green was beaten repeatedly by Dolphins quarterback David Woodley, both Gibbs and Petitbon came to Green's defense yesterday. Petitbon said he recalls that Vernon Dean, second-year player starting at right cornerback, didn't begin with such poise last preseason. Then he became veteran-like.
"I like what I see in Darrell Green," Gibbs said. "I think he shows that aggressiveness. And he's got that feeling, like a gunslinger. He's not worried."
A new worry seems to have appeared in the secondary, according to Petitbon. After veteran free safety Mark Murphy was twice beaten by Miami tight ends for long gains (pass plays covering 41 yards and 51 yards), Petitbon said, "Mark Murphy did not have a good game. He shouldn't get beat by tight ends . . .We have concerns at both safety spots now."
Throughout training camp, Murphy and Jordan--the team's only two secondary signal-callers--competed for the free safety job. "It's Murph's job," Petitbon said last week.
Now in his seventh year, Murphy has been fighting off competition and raps that he is losing speed for the past few years. Jordan, who hits hard and speaks with a twang, viewed the situation last week this way: "I really think they ought to move me over to strong (safety). If they keep Murph and me both at free, they will be wasting experience on the bench."
Now, Jordan seems to have gotten his wish. The Redskins, meanwhile, have enough other concerns to fill their thoughts. Starting left guard Mark May, for example, said yesterday that he reinjured his partially torn right triceps during Friday's game. It was May's first preseason appearance.
"After I would throw a (defensive) guy down, my arm just knotted up," said May. "I kept trying to shake it loose, but I couldn't. It affected my play."
May said he doesn't think his injury is serious and that his triceps will be examined by team physician Stan Lavine Monday. "I promise you I'll be there for Dallas, even if I'm a one-armed slot machine. Beyond that, I don't know."
Of Friday night's misery, Gibbs said, "It was the first time in a long time that our intensity just wasn't where it should be . . .
"We were doing things, but there was just no pooft! pooft! pooft!" he said, thrusting his arms forward three times for emphasis. "No, I don't think it was complacency. I think it was a combination of a lot of things. (Offensively), almost everyone across the board did not play well. Guys like (center Jeff) Bostic did play well. But our receivers didn't get good release off the line. We caught three-four balls out of bounds because Miami presses so well against receivers."
Gibbs said rookie quarterback Babe Laufenberg, who completed nine of 17 for 86 yards with one interception in his second half, "did some good things. He probably got a little excited. He made one real bad drop and misread the coverage and threw an interception. Another time he took a tremendous loss when he should have gotten rid of the ball first. We'll just intently watch the (reserve) quarterbacks now."
In all, Gibbs spent more than 11 hours watching game films and calculating the day away with his assistant coaches and scouts yesterday, taking only a brief break for sandwiches. The roster, now at 70 players, must be trimmed to 60 by Tuesday.
Clint Didier suffered a sprained right ankle against Miami. It is not believed to be serious.