On Monday, about 60 football players wearing the jerseys of the Washington Redskins will trudge through the heavy air hovering over the playing fields of Carlisle, Pa., to begin another season. On their faces will be etched exuberance and then, quickly, pain, which is what summertime football is all about. On their shoulders will lie great expectations.

The Redskins will begin practicing for the 1987 season at 9 a.m. Monday at Dickinson College's Biddle Field. Coach Joe Gibbs, brimming with excitement yet bothered by his annual preseason anxiety, knows what he and his team must do this season if they are to improve: make it to the Super Bowl. It's simple. The Redskins can no longer be a surprising team, unless they are awful, which is unlikely. Their shock value this season will be minimal. They were too good last year to be underdogs this year.

"Around here, {fans} expect great things," Gibbs said the other day, "and we better do them."

If the last two Redskins summers are best remembered for the time spent overhauling the team that had gone to two consecutive Super Bowls, this summer's advance billing most accurately would focus on one word: tinkering.

The Redskins apparently don't want to make many changes from the team that lost the NFC championship game, 17-0, to the New York Giants six months ago. This is not to say some better-known players will not be gone when the 106-man roster is pared to 45 by Sept. 8. Cornerbacks Vernon Dean and Barry Wilburn are on the spot, as are linebackers Monte Coleman, Rich Milot and, to a lesser degree, Mel Kaufman and Neal Olkewicz.

Other jobs could be in jeopardy by the time the season starts Sept. 13 at RFK Stadium against Philadelphia. Gibbs lists improving at linebacker and finding a blocking tight end to back up Don Warren as his most pressing concerns, followed by a lack of depth on the defensive line and the question of how to juggle the playing time and egos of running backs George Rogers and Kelvin Bryant.

Otherwise, Gibbs has answers to most training camp questions. For example, Jess Atkinson has the kicking job unless Max Zendejas, back from injured reserve, "takes it from him," Gibbs said. Jay Schroeder, naturally, is set for years as the team's approximately $1 million quarterback. (He is expected to sign his three-year contract by today.) The Redskins reiterated last week that they have no plans to trade backup Doug Williams, and they like Mark Rypien, their third-stringer.

Wide receiver, offensive line, defensive line -- you name it, other than minor changes -- and barring injury, the status quo is expected.

This goes for strategy, too. Other than stressing pass defense this summer because four opponents are from the pass-happy AFC East, the Redskins apparently are planning nothing fancy.

Gibbs answered an oft-asked question the other day about his beloved one-back offense: It stays, he said. There will be no two-back formations involving Rogers and Bryant because neither is a good blocking back.

"When you've got two backs, it's automatic in everyone's mind: You've got two guys. Two is better than one. So put the two in there and let them go," Gibbs said.

"But they're not blockers. To ask them to block consistently is to misuse them . . . People say, 'You've got two guys, flare them out, decoy one guy.' You can't decoy anybody, you've got to block people . . . Kelvin is a good receiver. He could go down the line, but I don't want him blocking for George."

Knowing the question is not likely to go away, Gibbs laughed. "I'll probably answer that every year, every week, every day," he said.

How Rogers, the team's leading rusher the past two seasons, and Bryant, an excellent receiver, will handle platooning is anyone's guess. Gibbs said, only half jokingly, that it's inevitable they both will be complaining by midseason. Bryant was injured last season and missed six games. Because he has missed playing time throughout college and the pros as the result of injuries, the Redskins asked the 26-year-old running back to work out more in the weight room this offseason. The results were mixed.

"Did he do everything we wanted him to?" Gibbs said. "No . . . but he did more than he's ever done before."

Bryant added 13 pounds to his 6-foot-2, 195-pound frame in the offseason, which encouraged the Redskins -- until he went to Gibbs and told him he was "feeling heavy," Gibbs said. So Gibbs told him to drop six or seven pounds and see how he feels.

"Everyone knows he's got tremendous talent, but can he stay in there?" Gibbs asked.

The Redskins' top preoccupation in the offseason has been weight training, done with the notion of keeping up with the Joneses, or, in this case, the Giants. Talk to a Redskin about this season and you won't go a minute without hearing the Giants mentioned. The Redskins want the Giants' power and size. They want the NFC East title New York won in 1986. They want the Giants' Super Bowl trophy.

There was no trade for a top linebacker. The addition of offensive assistant coach Dan Henning, former head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, is expected to add ideas to offensive strategy, but that's a slight change. So it turned out the weight room was where the battle with the Giants was joined.

Although a half-dozen or so unnamed players disappointed the coaches, many of the others bettered their personal bests in the weight room, which pleased Gibbs to no end.

"This was our best {offseason training}," Gibbs said. "But we also had some problems in there . . . I basically have said {to the players}, 'If you don't {work out}, then my commitment to you is going to be directly proportional to what your commitment was to us.' "

That's tough football talk for July, but such is life in the Redskins camp.

"Last year, we had everything to gain and nothing to lose," said defensive end Charles Mann. "Last year was a so-called rebuilding year. Now, it seems everyone expects us to win. But I think it's wrong to believe we snuck up on people last year . . . We didn't. People were ready for us last year, just like they will be this year. The difference is our motivation. People didn't think we could win last year, which got us going. Now, our motivation is that we were one step from the Super Bowl, and the team that was in our way is the Giants."

Last year, the Redskins did better than expected. This season, Gibbs, who leads active NFL coaches with a winning percentage of .710, knows that if he doesn't do his job just right, there could be a letdown on this team.

"What worries you about this year is that you feel like you've got some {questions} answered at quarterback with Jay and the kicking game, {which} you feel a lot better about. So I think the problem this year is that people may project you above where you should be . . . What I'm concerned about is that everybody gets carried away and puts you where you shouldn't be," Gibbs said.

Then again, it's hard to imagine the Redskins getting too worked up about themselves. Their collective personality suggests a quiet team, low on flair and high on work ethic. This is a Joe Gibbs team through and through. The flamboyant personalities have almost all left, replaced, by and large, by players who would rather not see their names in the newspaper or their faces on the 11 o'clock news. Defensive end Dexter Manley is about the only player who rocks the boat. And he is in the midst of a self-imposed media silence.

"I never know what to expect," Gibbs said of another upcoming season -- and of his team. "There's excitement, but, if you want the truth, there's also the feeling of, 'I hate to have this starting up again, six straight months {of football}.' "