Because it's a watered-down Dallas week, the Washington Redskins are more concerned now with their cavalry than an old rivalry.

Yesterday at Redskin Park, for instance, assistant coach Joe Bugel proclaimed that his offensive line is as fit as it's been all season and that George Rogers should start stampeding through holes large enough to jog through. In particular, Bugel praised once-discarded center Jeff Bostic, who Bugel says is now "playing the best he's played" since he was named to the Pro Bowl in 1983.

"I mean it," said Bugel, who maintains the only reason he benched Bostic this season was the fast development of guard/center Raleigh McKenzie. "That's why we're winning. Jeff has added a stabilizing effect. We've got all vets on the offensive line now. There isn't a new kid on the block, and it helps. Heck, we'll have the same line together for the third week in a row this Sunday."

Speaking of Sunday, the Dallas-Washington game has lost some of its spice, what with the Cowboys being 5-7 and so vilified back home. Last week, after a home loss to Atlanta, Cowboys owner Bum Bright questioned whether he should've bought the team and said he was "horrified" at Coach Tom Landry's play-calling.

Redskins defensive end Dexter Manley said yesterday he felt sorry for Landry, his newest buddy. "I'd like to have my cowboy boots and kick {Bright} in the butt for that one," said Manley, who interviewed Landry last summer on his WWDC-FM radio show.

Manley appeared to be on a one-man campaign to revive this rivalry.

Playfully, he said: "It just doesn't feel the same. Seems like the town's in an uproar, and I guess because Mikhail Gorbachev is here, it's kind of slowing things down. I wish he'd get the hell out of town. The Redskins-Cowboys game is bigger than what's happening with the Summit."

If it is, no one's letting on here. The talk yesterday centered mostly on Bostic, the running game, the return of Anthony Allen and the closed mouth of Clarence Verdin.

Bostic, his white uniform filthy after practice, said Bugel's words were soothing to the ear.

"I'm very pleased," he said. "I don't think what I've done is anything different. I'm just preparing as hard as I can, and I think I've played well the last two weeks."

Actually, it was his game against the New York Giants that won over Bugel. Bostic had not fared well against Giants defensive linemen Jim Burt and Erik Howard, and Bugel admits that's the big reason McKenzie was moved in at guard and Russ Grimm was moved over from guard to center. With Grimm injured, though, Bostic started against Burt a couple weeks ago and neutralized him.

"The films don't lie," Bugel said yesterday. "His big test was against the Giants when he went against Burt and Howard . . . The whole line is doing it. R.C. {Thielemann, the starting right guard} is having his best season since he's been here. He's over his knee injuries.

"As far as Bostic, I brought it up in front of his peer group. I told them he's been here since the foundation of this line and he's handled his problems well. Usually, when you bench somebody, that's it. We've got a class kid here."

Last week, Rogers went to Coach Joe Gibbs and begged for the ball, Bugel said. Exactly 134 yards later (that's how many Rogers gained against the Cardinals), there's optimism about the running game, even though third-down back Kelvin Bryant skipped yesterday's practice with a tender ankle and might be downgraded from probable to questionable for Sunday's game.

"{Rogers} went to the coach and said give me the ball," Bugel said. "And we made the commitment to him. We told him, 'We're gonna feed you, son.' He pulled a {John} Riggins and backed it up."

Meanwhile, Verdin, the tiny ex-USFL receiver, pulled a fast one and declined comment. Gibbs said he expects Verdin to be activated to take the injured Art Monk's place on the roster, and everyone figured Verdin -- who's never met an interviewer he didn't like -- would be talking nonstop.

Instead, he said: "I'm just ready to play. You can put it in headlines."

Allen, the ex-replacement receiver, was re-signed yesterday and said he's ready to play, too. But he probably will go on the five-man inactive list. He had been waived Nov. 28, and said he heard from San Diego and Tampa Bay, telling him they'd need him if anyone got hurt and they'd consider signing him for next season.

The Redskins called Sunday night after Monk was injured. However, Tampa Bay had talked to Allen's agent earlier that day and offered him a contract. Allen said he returned to the Redskins so he could collect his playoff money.

"I would've forfeited {the money} if I'd gone to Tampa," Allen said. "In Tampa Bay, I think I could've competed for a starting job, but I figured I can come here for the rest of the season, and after that, I can talk to San Diego or Tampa Bay about next year."

Meanwhile, Allen's ex-replacement teammate, Lionel Vital, signed with Buffalo yesterday.

Redskins Notes: Zema Williams, otherwise known as "Chief Z," is the fan who usually walks around RFK Stadium in a headdress. However, in the Nov. 23 game against the Rams, he says he was denied his usual free entrance to the stadium. He said word had come down that the Redskins didn't want him in. He doesn't own season tickets, and yesterday he said he's worried. "Crazy Ray {the Dallas Cowboys mascot} wants to come up for Sunday's game, but I can't get clearance to go on the field. I could get a couple tickets, but Ray would get hurt in the stands wearing that Dallas outfit. It'd be 58,000 against one." John Kent Cooke, the Redskins executive vice president, explained: "Zema is not an official mascot of the Redskins, just a great fan. And if he wants to get dressed up while being a season seat owner, then that's all right with us.

" . . . Yesterday, injured kicker Jess Atkinson kicked with active kicker Ali Haji-Sheikh and excelled. There are no plans to activate him at this time, though. . . .