The Los Angeles Raiders dispensed with, the Washington Redskins took on a much more important team yesterday.
The Washington Redskins.
Redskins coaches met most of the afternoon at the team's training camp in Carlisle, Pa., to evaluate films of the 14-9 preseason victory over the Raiders, then met most of the evening to discuss which players would stay and which would go in today's first mandatory roster cutdown to 60 players.
At last count, the Redskins had a 90-man roster.
Most of those expected to go today are rookies and free agents, largely unknown players with a late draft choice or two thrown in. When General Manager Bobby Beathard was asked if any well-known names would be released today, he said: "I would be surprised."
Several larger issues involve players who certainly won't be released today, and probably not at all.
Cornerback Tory Nixon, who was called for a holding penalty in the end zone Sunday in Los Angeles that gave the Raiders an automatic safety and was beaten twice on touchdown passes that were nullified by penalties, said he was "trying too hard to make a big play and just got beat."
The first pass, 56 yards from Jim Plunkett to rookie wide receiver Jessie Hester, was called back because of a holding call on tackle Shelby Jordan. Nixon said Hester was running an "out-and-up" pattern, in which he goes out about 15 yards downfield, then turns to the sideline. Nixon was in zone coverage on the play.
"I jumped the out, I guess because I was trying to make a great play," said Nixon, the Redskins' top choice in the 1985 draft. "Being a rookie, I should have realized that I should hold back and wait for the play to develop. But I guess I was overanxious."
The second apparent touchdown, 49 yards from Marc Wilson to Dokie Williams, was nullified by a penalty for an illegal formation. Nixon had "outside" coverage on the play, meaning he was to cover Williams along the sideline, if he went that way. Rookie free safety Raphel Cherry had "inside" coverage, meaning he was to cover Williams if he came into the field.
Williams ran a "fade" route along the sideline, Nixon said. "I should have been with him along the sideline. I was holding back, waiting for him, trying to make the big play. I got beat."
The fact both plays were called back offers little solace, he said.
"It helps because we won," Nixon said, "and I suppose it helps because they were called back, but they still happened. It's happened before and it will happen again, but, hopefully, not too much."
Beathard blamed the failures on the two weeks of work Nixon missed in a contract holdout. Nixon earlier this month signed a four-year deal believed to be worth $990,000.
"He's behind. He's two weeks behind," Beathard said. "We're going to work hard with him to get him caught up. But you have to put this in the proper perspective. He plays a position of reflex, and, when you work out on your own, as he did before he reported, you are not working on your reflexes.
"You work on reflexes by doing it and doing it and doing it. We are disappointed right now, but the most important thing is that the kid doesn't get discouraged. We know what we saw in him (when the Redskins drafted him), and we will continue to work with him."
Nixon agreed with Beathard, to a point. "It does need to become second nature, but that's not an excuse. I'm not making any excuses," Nixon said.
Beathard said he also was disappointed in kickers Mark Moseley and Tony Zendejas, who collectively missed three field goals Sunday.
"I would say it's disappointing to see this so-called big battle develop and then have them go out and have nothing come of it," Beathard said. "I thought both would go out and be doing it by now."
The Redskins have no alternative but to wait out Moseley and Zendejas. It's likely the decision will not be made until Sept. 2, when the roster must be cut to the final 45 players.
The same goes for the quarterbacks. It's very unlikely Babe Laufenberg would be cut any time soon, even though he appears to be third and fading fast in his battle with Jay Schroeder, who led the Redskins to their winning touchdown Sunday.
In fact, Coach Joe Gibbs is known for wanting to keep a couple of quarterbacks in reserve. What this decision may come down to is a choice between a third quarterback and a final player at another position, with the particular assistant coach fighting for the other player.
One other factor in Laufenberg's favor is the extra year he has spent in the Redskins organization: two seasons to Schroeder's one. Some within the organization seem unlikely to give up on someone in whom they have invested so much time.
Then there is the strange case of running back George Rogers. The coaches like what he has done, but Rogers says he is "oh for two" in terms of preseason game performances and not happy with the way he has played because he has not broken any long runs.
Beathard said Rogers' attitude pleases the Redskins. "He's just a guy who has high goals for himself," Beathard said.
As the coaches looked at films, they saw several moments when the Redskins defused situations that looked like usual Raiders comebacks. Rookie cornerback Kevin Williams caused Los Angeles tight end Jeff McCall to fumble at the Washington 39 with less than a minute remaining in the game to ensure the victory.
And linebacker Stuart Anderson, who returned to the Redskins two weeks ago via waivers from Cleveland, killed the Raiders' next-to-last chance with two consecutive tackles for losses when Los Angeles had third and one, then fourth and two, near midfield.
But if there were more questions than answers in those films, it's not surprising, Beathard said.
"What do you expect?" he asked. "We've got 90 guys in camp and we're trying to play 80 of them. We don't know what to expect."
Offensive tackle Mike McClearn, who has missed most of practice with an injured finger, played well Sunday and is expected to receive quite a bit of work this week in practice. Cornerback Darrell Green started, his sprained right ankle apparently healed. Wide receiver Charlie Brown did not play because of a sore right hamstring but is expected to practice this week. Knee surgery for tight end Terry Orr was delayed until later this week, but he is expected to be out for the season. Defensive tackle Dean Hamel suffered a sprained ankle in the Raiders game but the injury is not believed to be serious . . . The Redskins have a very short turnaround time this week. They start practicing again today at Dickinson College in Carlisle, break camp Thursday, and play the New England Patriots at 8 p.m. Friday in RFK Stadium in the only home preseason game.