Veteran safeties Curtis Jordan and Ken Coffey, who started together the first half of the 1986 season, yesterday were among the 11 players released by the Washington Redskins as the team cut to a 45-man roster.

Both lost their jobs to younger players, Jordan to Todd Bowles at starting free safety; Coffey to rookie Clarence Vaughn at reserve strong safety.

The Redskins also placed four veterans on injured reserve: middle linebacker Neal Olkewicz (knee), tight end Terry Orr (shoulder), quarterback Mark Rypien (back) and wide receiver Clarence Verdin (hamstring). By being placed on injured reserve in preseason, each must miss a minimum of six games. A team is allowed only three "free" moves off of this list, which means if a fourth is brought back during the season, he must clear waivers.

Most of the other nine players cut by the Redskins were rookies or new to the team this preseason: tight ends Cliff Benson, Chris Dressel and Craig McEwen; wide receivers Derek Holloway and Ted Wilson; linebackers Anthony Copeland and Steve Nave; free safety Steve Gage, and defensive end Ted Chapman, a free agent from Maryland.

But it appears two of them -- Benson and Copeland -- will be coming back to the team today, if they clear waivers. The Redskins are expected to place tackle Mark May, who has a partial tear of the medial collateral ligament in his right knee, and tight end Clint Didier, who has a pulled left hamstring, on the regular season injured reserve list. This list requires players miss a minimum of four games. Eight injured reserve players total, including those on the preseason list, are allowed to return without going through waivers.

The releases of Jordan, 33, an 11-year veteran, and Coffey, 26, a three-year veteran, were not entirely unexpected. Jordan lost his starting job last week to Bowles, in his second season from Temple. Jordan does not play on special teams, which means his value to the team as a backup defensive back was limited. Coffey, who spent two seasons on injured reserve and missed parts of two others with injuries, missed all four preseason games and almost every practice this summer with a hip flexor.

Coach Joe Gibbs said both simply lost out to a youth movement in the secondary.

"I've got a tremendous respect for Curtis," Gibbs said. "It was just Todd coming on. I tell you, what's happening in our secondary is we've got young guys. The last couple of years, we've had a tremendous number of young players come in there and really do well, and they play great on special teams . . . It winds up just getting real crowded."

Gibbs said Coffey was "ready to get back to practice" after being injured.

"I just felt that of the guys we had, evaluating it from a football standpoint, that Kenny wasn't going to make it," Gibbs said. "There were other guys. We kept a lot of {defensive backs} this year. I didn't feel like he would be in that category of the guys that make it."

Neither Jordan nor Coffey could be reached for comment last night.

Both were popular with their teammates and the media, Jordan especially so. Gibbs realized releasing Jordan takes one more free spirit off a team that used to have many, and now has relatively few.

"We have to hope that somebody else fills that," Gibbs said. "I think Curtis was a special guy. So I think for that reason it's going to be hard to replace him."

The Redskins kept eight defensive backs, including cornerback Brian Davis, their top pick in last spring's NFL draft. Three second-year players are expected to start for the Redskins in the secondary this season: cornerback Tim Morrison, strong safety Alvin Walton and Bowles. Darrell Green, in his fifth season, is the other cornerback.

Five-year veteran Vernon Dean, a starting cornerback last season, made the team as a "utility" player, Gibbs said. He will be the backup free safety to Bowles, as well as a reserve at all the other defensive back spots, a nickel back and a special teams player.

Four draft choices made the final roster: tackle Ed Simmons (sixth round), running back Timmy Smith (fifth round), Vaughn (eighth round) and Davis (second round). Tight end Glenn Dennison, guard Rick Kehr and linebackers Kurt Gouveia and Ravin Caldwell, both of whom spent the 1986 season on injured reserve, are new to the Redskins' roster this season.

But they won't be the only ones. "I don't think all this is going to be culminated until tomorrow," Gibbs said. "There's a lot of things hanging."

The Redskins want Benson back because they have just three tight ends on the roster right now -- and one is Didier. Don Warren is the starting blocking tight end, of course, and Dennison is expected to start at H-back (man in motion) this Sunday at 1 p.m. against the Philadelphia Eagles at RFK Stadium. Benson played both blocking tight end and H-back for Redskins offensive assistant coach Dan Henning when Henning was head coach at Atlanta. Because he can play both spots, as well as the fact that he has played in the one-back and for Henning, gave him the edge over Dressel, a four-year veteran from the Houston Oilers.

Copeland is vital because the Redskins kept only five linebackers on their initial 45-man roster: Rich Milot, Mel Kaufman, Monte Coleman, Caldwell and Gouveia. Copeland, who spent last season on injured reserve, is needed for depth at left linebacker and on special teams.

By placing Rypien on injured reserve, the Redskins have only Jay Schroeder and Doug Williams at quarterbacks on the active roster. This is the third consecutive year that Gibbs said he wanted to keep three quarterbacks, but ended up having only two.

The Redskins decided to keep four wide receivers: Art Monk, Gary Clark, Ricky Sanders and Eric Yarber. Lost in the shuffle was Holloway, a refugee from the U.S. Football League, who averaged 34.3 yards in four preseason catches.

It was a foregone conclusion that Monk, Clark and Sanders were the top three receivers. Yarber made the team because he is the punt returner. Holloway's only hope was that the Redskins would keep five wide receivers.

"It was very tough today," Gibbs said. "We had a lot of good guys you'd like to keep but couldn't. The injury thing really complicated it for us."