Who knows football players better than old football players? So, a number of former Washington Redskins talked with staff writers Richard Justice and Leonard Shapiro and analyzed both Super Bowl teams, position by position. George Allen on Coaches

Both coaches are very similar. For one, they both concentrate strictly on their offensive teams and leave their defenses to other assistants.

Dan Reeves, as you might expect from a guy who spent so much time in Tom Landry's system, does a lot of things the Cowboys always did. When we used to play Dallas, we had to get ready for a lot of different sets and multiple formations. If you're not careful, they can confuse your defense. Of course Reeves has the luxury of having John Elway, and he does things that my old friend Roger Staubach could never do.

The test of a coach is how much he's getting out of his talent; is he getting them to play beyond their capabilities, and both these guys are doing that. I really thought Cleveland was the best team in the AFC, and if they played again, I'd still pick Cleveland. So give Reeves credit for that. He beat a better team, and that's all you can ask.

Joe Gibbs is very similar in that he gives his defense to my friend Richie Petitbon, just like Reeves lets Joe Collier do it in Denver. Gibbs also likes to move people around on offense, with lots of different looks. The big difference is that Gibbs relies a lot more on his running game. The Redskins have always had a dominant kind of back there -- John Riggins, George Rogers, Kelvin Bryant, and he uses Rogers and Bryant well. I think Joe is also a little surprised to be there, because I thought San Francisco was the best team in the NFC. But that's football.

One other thing to look for. I think it's going to be a good, tight game, and the difference could be which side has the best special teams. My former assistant, Paul Lanham, did a heck of a job straightening those teams out. That could very well decide this game. Sonny Jurgensen on Quarterbacks

I don't think there's any question that John Elway is one of the best players at that position in football. He has great athletic ability. He has a tremendous arm. He knows the game. He has a great feel for the game. That athleticism is important because it allows him to buy time to make big plays, and he's more dangerous out of the pocket than in it.

Doug Williams hasn't played in a Super Bowl, but this is a tremendous opportunity. He's looking forward to it, and I don't think anyone who has ever played in this game has looked forward to it more than Doug Willams. He knows the game. He's got a big arm. He buys time by sliding back and forth in the pocket, and, for that reason, he's difficult to sack. The thing he has done is provide the leadership the Redskins are looking for offensively. He has stepped in and become a leader. The thing he's not doing is hurting the team. He throws the ball away. He doesn't force it, doesn't throw interceptions.

Elway has improved and gotten more selective, no question about it. I think he throws the ball away more. If you switch positions and put him on (Miami Dolphins Coach) Don Shula's team and Marino in the other place, it would be different. I talked to Johnny Unitas many times about it, and he said the best place for a young quarterback to be was with Shula. The position is a little more complicated and Shula simplified it, never gave a quarterback more than he could handle. Calvin Hill on Running Backs

If there's an advantage, it has to go to Washington. The Redskins have an ex-MVP from the USFL (Kelvin Bryant), a former All-Pro (George Rogers) and one of the best rookie runners I've seen (Timmy Smith). The Broncos don't have Gerald Willhite (out with a broken leg), but they do have Sammy Winder, who people forget about. He was a Pro Bowler on a team without the best offensive line. He's excellent and what makes him more dangerous is that he's running behind John Elway, and that's the guy who's going to beat you.

Individually, I'm very impressed with Timmy Smith. I think he runs with a lot of power, and he has good lateral movement. He seems to run smart. I don't know their schemes exactly, but he seems to know the blocking and the point of attack.

I think George is capable of a big game. He's a great runner, but has been hurt a little this year, which people seem to forget. People tend to minimize those types of injuries. I hurt the ball of my foot my rookie year and did it a couple of times after that. That's so important for a running back. Eighty percent of your push comes from your big toe.

I think what hurts George is trying to play through injuries to answer his critics and deal with the ghost of John Riggins. He doesn't have to do that. Maybe having two weeks off will help. He didn't play much in the NFC championship game, so it could be like having three weeks off.

Kelvin Bryant is a guy the Broncos are going to have to spend some time preparing for, which they will. Danny Reeves is a former teammate of mine, and before he hurt his knee, was a real good pass catcher out of the backfield. Kelvin is that way. He's a little undersized but a real good runner, a productive one. He has a tendency to get hurt and the way they're using him now is ideal.

I'm amazed at what people do to cover him. On the touchdown against Minnesota, I thought there were three things wrong with the coverage. The rotating cornerbacks should have been trying to force him inside. The safety should have committed to him, and the linebacker should have forced him up. Don't let him get those three yards downfield because that's where he's so dangerous. I would have brought a linebacker across to make him make his move before he was ready. I think you've got to put pressure on him right away, and as a former running back, Danny knows that the best thing is to make a back make his move early. Charley Taylor on Wide Receivers

Everyone has heard of Denver's "Three Amigos" and that's not just hype because they're really good. Mark Jackson is a converted running back, and I've followed his career. Vance Johnson is a game-breaker type, and Ricky Nattiel is very consistent. They have a guy who gets them the ball, and they're dangerous when they catch it. That's a good combination.

Our guys just have to work a little harder, and they have. Art Monk is one of the best there is. He's the spark plug and the leader of the group. Gary Clark is such a competitor, a guy who loves a challenge, and he has gotten better and better in his three seasons. No one works harder. Ricky Sanders is young and still learning. He has all the tools to be as good as anyone and has shown that when he has had a chance to play.

I'm happy for guys to play in a game like this. I call them the "Smurfs, Second Generation." We had our first generation of Smurfs here and they helped us win a Super Bowl.

We hope these guys play as well as they did. George Starke on Offensive Lines

The Redskins have had the best offensive line in football and for four or five years. I haven't seen much of Denver. I don't think anyone in the Washington area has. The only way to judge it is that the Broncos have had a very poor running game, and that says something about the offensive line. Anyone can carry the football, so it must be the line's fault.

Why are the Redskins so good? First, coaching. Joe Bugel is one of the best line coaches in football. After having the proper coaching, their blocking technique is good. And you're talking about very good athletes.

Joe Jacoby and Russ Grimm have been playing side by side since their rookie years, and they've been All-Pro as a team. The guard and tackle work together, and Grimm and Jacoby were the best. Now, Grimm is back and healthy and can't get his job back. That tells you how good Jeff Bostic and Raleigh McKenzie have been playing.

The 3-4 defense (the alignment Denver uses) is different. Compared to other defenses, it's like apples and oranges, and the offense must take a whole different defensive approach. Nothing is the same, and some people block the 3-4 well and some don't.

The 3-4 dominated football when Don Shula introduced it in 1970 and '71. No one could figure out how to block it. But when we played the Dolphins in the Super Bowl in 1982, Joe Bugel figured out how to block it. As a result, we blew that defense right out of football.

Now, normally when the Redskins play a team with a 3-4, like the Giants, they'll put eight men on the line of scrimmage to block it. I really think Denver will play something else. Ron McDole on Defensive Lines

I think the Redskins' defensive line is the key to the game. If they can contain John Elway somehow, that will make all the difference in the world. He's really a dominating player. Even in the playoff game, it was going back and forth for a while, but when Cleveland tied it, Denver marched right down the field. He's fun to watch. He's so dominating, it's like he's out there playing a little game with everyone.

I think the Redskins have a better line, especially with the pass rush of Charles Mann and Dexter Manley. Denver relies on a different style -- the 3-4 -- but the Broncos aren't as strong man for man. The key for the Redskins' offense is to contain Rulon Jones, and I think Doug Williams will have the time he needs to throw. The big difference is that Doug isn't looking to run and Elway is. {Elway is} so hard to prepare for because he can get outside and he'll even run up the middle. The Washington tackles need to create some pressure on him. The linebackers are fast and do a good job, and they can help contain him.

It won't be easy. I played against Fran Tarkenton and Roger Staubach, and just when you thought you had them, they'd escape and hit a big play. Elway is like that except he's bigger and faster. Mark Murphy on Defensive Backs

I give the Redskins an edge. For one thing, they've been together all year, and their cornerbacks give them an advantage. They've got good speed and are very good cover men. The problem for the Redskins is that the Broncos have three good wide receivers. The Redskins match up well with the starters, but it's going to be harder when they have to go to the nickel.

Individually, Darrell Green is excellent, and obviously, his strength is quickness and speed. He used to go for fakes and rely on his speed to catch up. This year, I've noticed he doesn't do that as much. I always looked at Barry Wilburn as a real good athlete. He's big and fast and was always in position. Before, he had a knack of giving up the big play. This year, he's making the play. Alvin Walton is one of the top strong safeties. He plays like a linebacker and has improved his coverage. I've been impressed with free safety Todd Bowles, and that's a tough position to play without experience.

For the Broncos, Mark Haynes is one of the best. I'm glad to see him come on and play well. He was great with the Giants, and he gives the Broncos experience. Steve Wilson (a Howard University graduate) is solid and smart, but he might be a guy the Redskins could pick on because he doesn't have that great speed. Tony Lilly is still young and is smaller, although he seems to have good instincts. He was benched earlier in the year. Dennis Smith has been hurt, and that may be a factor. Sam Huff on Linebackers

Karl Mecklenburg is a very dominating football player. I watched him play last year against the Giants, and I was very impressed. He's a good all-around football player, and he'll be the one the Redskins will have to really control.

I think he's got a little mean streak in him. He's a good-sized linebacker, he's a big kid and he has a knack for blitzing. He's a head tackler. He's really head and shoulders above most linebackers. He's not in the class with Lawrence Taylor, but no one is. But he's certainly an all-pro, and I think he's one of the top five linebackers in the game. The Broncos defense only has two special players -- Mecklenburg and Rulon Jones.

They're using Mecklenburg as a rover the way the Giants do with Taylor. The Chicago Bears used to do it with Bill George in the 1950s to try to confuse the offense. When you have a guy with that kind of talent, you move him around where he can disrupt a team.

For the Redskins, Neal Olkewicz is probably the most consistent. Game in and game out, he plays very well and is the team's best tackler. That's his strong suit. Once in a while he'll blitz, and when he blitzes, he surprises the other team because they don't expect it. As a result, he gets in a lot of the time.

Monte Coleman may be the best athlete on the team. He's had a good year, especially when he hit his stride at midseason. The last couple of games he hasn't played that well, but you have to understand he's playing against better teams now.

To me, he's always been a talent who hasn't really laid it all out. He could have been a great linebacker, but he has never put it all out there. He won't play hurt. He doesn't have a high threshold of pain. I found this out because one time he went down and I thought he was hurt seriously, and he only had a pulled muscle. The trainers had to go out and lead him back. Monte's built like all-world and could have been all-world if he'd set his goals. It's amazing to me that he hasn't produced better than he has.

Mel Kaufman is very much like Monte only Kaufman will play hurt. Olkewicz will play hurt, and I think, overall, they play pretty soundly as a team. They're experienced and talented. The Redskins are also using kids like Kurt Gouveia and Ravin Caldwell and Clarence Vaughn more. It's been great the way it worked out. Richie Petitbon has done a great job. Caldwell comes in and starts making tackles and gets in on the blitz. Pete Wysocki on Special Teams

Kickers: I like Denver's Rich Karlis for his consistency. He doesn't have great range, but accuracy is kind of important at that position. Ali Haji-Sheikh has been inconsistent, but I thought the criticism of him after the Minnesota game (for the NFC championship) was tough. He didn't have a chance to practice all week on grass, and that's important for a kicker.

Punters: One thing about Denver's Mike Horan is that he's left-footed, and the ball comes down weird. That gives the returner a little bit of a problem, but the punter is only as good as the coverage team. The Broncos play a 3-4 defense, which means they carry a couple of extra linebackers, and linebackers are usually good on special teams, so the Broncos probably have an advantage on the coverage teams.

The Redskins have people like Dean Hamel and Ravin Caldwell, and they're key guys. What they have to have is a really consistent effort. You have to guard against people freelancing or running out of their lanes. What bothers me about the Redskins is that the traditon of great special teams George Allen put in place has dissipated. That's a hard thing to get back.

One reason is that the average NFL player stays in the league 3.3 years, and with a high turnover rate, you don't have any old hands. When I played, guys were in their late 20s or early 30s. We policed ourselves. Now, the special teams are just a holding tank until guys move into the lineup. Under Allen, special teams were asked to win three games a year with big plays. One year we won six.

Returners: Again, they're as good as their blocking. Darrell Green is one guy who can do it on his own, and he'll make Denver prepare in a different way. They'll have to be pretty conservative and won't be able to take a chance running out of their lanes.