There will be many intriguing matchups today when the Washington Redskins play the Philadelphia Eagles at 1 p.m. in soldout Veterans Stadium.
In a game (WDVM-TV-9) in which the oddsmakers say 'pick 'em,' neither Eagles running back Wilbert Montgomery (sprained knee) nor Redskins strong safety Curtis Jordan (deep thigh bruise) is expected to play a great deal, if at all.
The Redskins (0-1) say thoughts of Monday night's 31-30 defeat to Dallas have been banished from their minds.
"You hear all the talk that we can't repeat (as Super Bowl champion) and that we are slumping," says linebacker Rich Milot, "but I don't feel much pressure now. We just need a good win."
However, the Redskins admit that another defeat today could turn on the pressure. George Starke, veteran offensive tackle, said yesterday, "We just want to get the first win out of the way."
The Eagles, who defeated San Francisco, 22-17, in their season opener, have been treading in quicksand ever since they made it to the Super Bowl three years ago, then started 6-0 in 1981. Since then, they are 8-13. Their fans regularly boo quarterback Ron Jaworski. New blood and new ideas arrived this year when former defensive coordinator Marion Campbell replaced Dick Vermeil as head coach.
Now, Eagles cornerback Herman Edwards says, "That first victory against the 49ers really helped us build confidence. Our team is trying to find its own identity now . . . For awhile (against the 49ers), our defense looked like the Eagles of old. You know, 1980 . . ."
The Redskins defense has enough concerns of its own. If Jordan is unable to play--"Right now, it hurts like hell when I run," he said yesterday--Ken Coffey, a first-year player whom Jordan replaced several weeks ago, will return at strong safety.
The key for the Redskins' defense, though, will be the pass rush. Herein lies one matchup of intrigue: the Eagles offensive line versus the Redskins' pass rush.
Though the Eagles defeated the 49ers in their opener, poor Jaworski was sacked four times in the first half, the last of which caused him to suffer a concussion and miss the second half. Joe Pisarcik replaced him and produced the victory.
The Redskins sacked Jaworski a total of 10 times in their two victories over Philadelphia last season. Philadelphia's aging offensive line regularly succeeds as run-blockers for rookie back Michael Haddix, the bulldozer from Mississippi State who gained 76 yards on 24 carries in place of Montgomery last week. As pass blockers, though, the Eagles offensive line suffers.
"If we can get them in a passing situation," Richie Petitbon, coach of the Redskins' defense, said without hesitation, "we will sack them."
"Remember, though," said defensive end Tony McGee, Redskins designated third-down pass rusher, "a pass rush is only successful when you have good coverage."
Which raises another intriguing matchup: Eagles wide receiver Harold Carmichael, a 6-foot-8 Goliath, against Redskins rookie cornerback Darrell Green, a little over 5 feet 8.
The Redskins, who constantly change their defensive coverages, have confidence in Green. Says Green, "You get 'em heavier than me. You get 'em taller than me. I just have to play him (Carmichael) like he's a receiver, not a big player."
While establishing the running game seems essential to the Eagles, the Redskins likely will send quarterback Joe Theismann on a seek-and-destroy mission against the Eagles secondary: another intriguing matchup. Theismann threw for 641 yards and four touchdowns in two games last year against the Eagles, whose defense plays toughest against the run. "They give you the five-, six-yard passes. They just don't want to give up the big play," said Theismann. "That's the philosophy Marion has given them. Bend, but don't break. They figure you will make a mistake some time."
Since former Coach George Allen's first Redskins season of 1971, Washington has been trapped by the highs and lows, posting a 14-10 record in games played the week after a Dallas game.
Asked if Monday night's highly emotional loss to Dallas has made a victory in today's game any more difficult to achieve, Redskins kick returner Mike Nelms smiled and said, "Naaaaaaw."