The issue of quarterback Jay Schroeder's less-than-stellar preseason play has come up time and again the last few days in conversations with Washington Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs. Yesterday, Schroeder said he didn't know what his coach has said about him, but he had a guess.

"He laughed, right?"

Schroeder, seven months removed from the Pro Bowl, realizes he has had his troubles in games this summer. Although his quarterback rating over three preseason games is exactly what it was after 16 regular season games last season (72.9), he has not looked "sharp," he said. On short, "touch" passes, he said he gets "lazy." In a loss to Tampa Bay, he said he "tried to hit a home run right away" by throwing deep, only to underthrow his receivers with a wet football.

"It's just something I'm going to have to learn when the weather's bad like that," he said.

He said he is not "satisfied" with his play, but said he is certain it will get better this Saturday against the Los Angeles Rams and in the season opener Sept. 13 against Philadelphia. It is only preseason, after all, the Redskins say. Gibbs and quarterbacks coach Jerry Rhome said they are not worried about him in the long run, even if the short-term Schroeder hasn't looked so good.

"He had one game he did all right {against Pittsburgh} and a couple games {Green Bay, Tampa Bay} he didn't do as well as he can," Rhome said. "I don't know if that was a case of him not being really up for the game, or what. I wouldn't think that's a sign he can't play.

"Watching him day in and day out at practice, there's nothing wrong with him. He had a very good training camp. I just think it's time he buckled his chin strap.

"Obviously, if he continued to not play as well as he usually does, we'd have a serious problem with him . . . But it's the whole team. If we play the way we played the last game, we'd get beat every game."

Schroeder has completed 29 of 55 passes for 375 yards, one touchdown and one interception. His 52.7 completion percentage is better than last season's 51.0 percentage. But subtleties he has worked on in training camp, things like deciding when to throw short and completing the touch passes, have not gone well in games.

Playing on a wet field in Tampa, Schroeder said he failed to compensate for a heavier, wet football.

"When the ball's wet like that, you've got to put an overemphasis on it to get it out there," he said. "I just didn't do that. I underthrew Derek {Holloway}. I underthrew Art {Monk}. What I should have been doing in that game is just dropping the ball off to begin with and the receivers can come up and get the short stuff before we tried to go deep."

In the third quarter, Schroeder completely missed running back Timmy Smith on a routine swing pass. He slapped his hands together the second he let go of the ball, knowing he had badly missed his man.

"I just get lazy when I throw the ball short," he said. "I don't set my feet. Timmy was 10 feet away from me and I completely missed him because I didn't set my feet and I threw it across my body and it slid across. I laughed the minute I threw it because I knew he had no chance of catching it. It just puts pressure on me because then I've got to come back and make that much more of a difficult play the next time. If I can get that out of my system, we'll be all right."

Rhome said Schroeder's touch passing "has been coming along," adding, "That was a sorry throw."

Schroeder said his left knee, the one he uses a brace on, is 100 percent. He also called the preseason "average for the offense, myself included in that. I think there's a lot of things we could do a lot better. It's time to get things going and get serious about it."

Rhome agreed.

"I think, as a quarterback, you've got to go into every game feeling like everything's on the line," he said. "If you're that way, you play the best. I don't think he's really thought that way in preseason and I think maybe you need to think that way. I always thought that way because my job was always on the line. I think he can throw a lot better. I'd hate to think that was his best effort."

Said Gibbs, "I don't think you ever say just chalk it up to preseason. Because it's preseason, it's time to get honed in and to be sharp and do the things you should be doing to get ready for the regular season . . . Jay's in the same boat. He'd like to play better than what he's playing."

For his part, Schroeder remains confident.

"I have no doubts at all I'll have as good a year {as he had last year}. With the people I have to throw the football to, the people I have to hand it off to and the people I have blocking, there's no reason why we can't have a great year; me, personally, and the entire team. We're one of very few teams that can get to San Diego {site of the Super Bowl}. I really, truly believe that."