The oral exams and pop quizzes are over for Redskins rookie cornerback Darrell Green.
He says he doesn't know what the Washington Redskins-Dallas Cowboys rivalry is all about and doesn't really care much, either. Yet, the outcome of Monday night's season opener at RFK Stadium could very well depend on him.
Green will spend the next few days cramming to get ready to contend with Drew Pearson's corner patterns, Tony Hill's posts and Butch Johnson's down and outs.
"I don't feel any pressure," Green said after yesterday's 2 1/2-hour practice at Redskin Park. "I'm here because the organization believes in me and I believe in myself. When you're a cornerback, you've got to vision things and I vision myself coming out on top, no matter how many times they throw at me. It's been a long road since the first day of training camp, but I've learned a lot and I'm ready.
"I expect them (the Cowboys) to come at me. In fact, I'll be surprised if they don't. I welcome it. I don't know a corner who doesn't want to get thrown at. I know I'm one of the fastest people on earth, but when the Cowboys come at me, I'm not running. I'll be right there."
The Redskins' secondary that started in the Super Bowl was among the best in the National Football League: Jeris White and Vernon Dean at the corners, Tony Peters and Mark Murphy at the safeties.
With Peters on paid leave from the team while he prepares his legal defense after being indicted for conspiring to sell cocaine, and with White still a holdout, the secondary is Green in more ways than one. Curtis Jordan will start for Peters, with Green taking over for White at left cornerback.
In terms of athletic ability, there isn't much of a dropoff, but in the intangibles, there is little comparison. Last season's secondary functioned as much on instinct and familiarity as on skill.
This year's new-look secondary hasn't progressed that far. It has been together as a starting unit for only one preseason game, the 27-19 victory over Buffalo last week. Jordan and Green had interceptions that night, Green returning his 21 yards for a touchdown.
There isn't much experience on the bench, either. Reserve cornerbacks Anthony Washington and Brian Carpenter have only three and two years of experience, respectively, and Carpenter was picked up on waivers only this week. At safety, Ken Coffey is in his first year and Greg Williams is in his second.
"It's a little unsettling to be in such a position, but it's part of the game," said Murphy.
"I think they're coming along," said Richie Petitbon, assistant head coach/defense, "but it's still a question of time and confidence. It's a tough position to come into for a first game, but Jordan isn't a rookie and Darrell is such a great athlete that he'll do all right."
The Redskins are expecting the Cowboys to try to isolate Green. The Redskins, in turn, will try to prevent that.
The Redskins' pass defenses are a series of zones, double zones, man-to-man coverages and combinations of the three. They attempt to disguise them by making them all look the same before the ball is snapped.
"We've modified a few things," said Petitbon, "but the overall product will be about the same as last year."
"We'll have to play a lot by ear," said Murphy. "But initially, we'll do the same things we have in the past. Jeris and Tony were so familiar with the system, though. We're just going to have to be patient with the new guys. We can't very well do anything to cover for them or help them too much without making ourselves weak someplace else.
"We aren't going to panic. We'll play all of the defenses, but if we're successful or not is the key . . . They're going to try to isolate Darrell and we'll try not get him in that position."
Petitbon has watched Green mature rapidly and said yesterday that he has as much confidence in him as he has ever had in a rookie cornerback.
"Darrell is capable of making the big plays," he said, "and if Dallas' game plan is to go at him, he's going to come up with the big play."
Murphy, the steadying force in the secondary, has two pieces of advice for Green in his debut against Dallas.
"He has to relax," Murphy said. "There's no need for him to put any pressure on himself, because everyone else has put more than enough on him. My other piece of advice to him is, 'If you get beat, forget it. Just line up for the next play and let them try it again.' "