LATROBE, PA., JULY 25 -- He was just another guy hidden on injured reserve two seasons ago and another guy watching the Mark Rypien-Doug Williams competition from one of the best seats in the house last season.

For a couple of years, the Washington Redskins have known that Stan Humphries was big and strong and smart. They've listened to him talk in meetings, and watched him throw a few hundred down-and-ins.

Not many people have done it better, and now after releasing Williams last spring, the Redskins are hoping to find out exactly what they have in this young quarterback Stan Humphries.

"You can make all the evaluations you want," Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs said, "and still it comes down to going out there in front of 70,000 people and taking his team down the field for a touchdown that wins a game. Quarterback is a different kind of position. Joe Montana is one of the best that ever lived, but he was a fourth-round draft pick. He may not have had the skills some other guys had, but he went out and did the job."

Gibbs has seen dozens of them. He remembers how Dan Fouts would work himself into a fury by Sunday and how Doug Williams would swat away defenders with the back of his hand and how Joe Theismann once spit out broken teeth and a mouthful of blood before going back out to beat the New York Giants.

What they all had in common was winning. They were either tough enough or talented enough or cool enough to move their teams, especially when it counted most. "Quarterbacks," Gibbs said, "aren't measured like other players. Quarterbacks are measured by how well they go out on the field and get the job done. A quarterback can set the tone for your team."

The Redskins believe Rypien can be their starter for another decade or so, but in case of injury or slump, they want an option. At the moment, that option is Humphries, who at 6 feet 2 and 223 pounds with a rocket of an arm is pretty much the classic quarterback package.

"I know it's a big camp for me," Humphries said. "I can't worry about making a decision for the coaches. All I can do is go out and try to get better each day. I have to be ready to do my job when I get a chance."

He hasn't gotten much of a chance before and what chances he has gotten have been virtually meaningless. He was the 159th player taken in the 1988 draft. He hasn't even gotten long looks in training camp, but that began to change today. Rypien worked this afternoon in a live practice session against the Pittsburgh Steelers, then turned the first scrimmage of the season over to Humphries, veteran backup Jeff Rutledge and rookie Cary Conklin. Humphries made the most of the opportunity, completing four of six passes for 55 yards. Each team had 40 offensive possessions, and Gibbs used Humphries for the first 10.

He opened the evening by taking the Redskins on a seven-play, 60-yard drive that ended with him rolling right and throwing across the field to hit tight end Jimmie Johnson for a 38-yard touchdown play. Humphries' performance was more impressive since he was surrounded mostly by rookies and new free agents, and working against the Steelers' front line. The scrimmage finished with each team scoring two touchdowns.

After a couple of years of watching, this camp is a chance for Humphries to take a big step forward. Tonight's scrimmage was the first of four for the Redskins the next two weeks, and Humphries likely will play in all.

"Sure, this is a big camp for me," he said. "I came in with the attitude that I can't make the decision for the coaches, but that I could try to learn and get better each day. That's all I can do and maybe I can make their decision tougher. I haven't had that many chances {10 regular season passes in two mop-up assignments} in the past, and when I get one, I want to take advantage of it."

And if Humphries plays like some of his coaches believe he can, he surely will at least press Rypien. Rypien knows this, and having been in that situation himself behind Williams and Jay Schroeder, knows the thought process involved. They remain fast friends, playing softball and golfing together, yet they're also two people competing for one important, high-profile, well-paying job.

"My whole attitude when I was in that situation is that I couldn't do anything about what other people did," Rypien said. "Stan knows that. He can only control himself and get himself ready. When I see him working and trying to get better, it makes me work harder. When I was in his position, I wanted to push the guy in front of me. I'm sure he feels the same way and that's how teams get better. Competition is healthy and it doesn't have to break up a friendship."

Humphries knows because he has had experience. He watched two years at Northeastern Louisiana while Bubby Brister played.

"My first year here my goal was just to make the team," he said. "I was just happy to be a part of things. Then last year, I wanted a backup role. Now, I'm just going to be patient, do my work and see what comes next."

He knows the web in which he is caught: Rypien is only 27 and looked to be on the verge of stardom last season, and the Redskins used a fourth-round pick on Conklin.

Humphries, 25, can see competition everywhere he turns. Still, he says he can't panic. Williams probably thought Schroeder would be taking snaps forever and three years ago, Rypien was behind both.

"I do feel that what I need now is a chance to get on the field and play," Humphries said. "When it all comes down to it, you have to go out there and see if you can move the team. You can only show so much on the practice field. At the same time, I'm not going to allow myself to get antsy. You just can't because the situation is too unpredictable. You've got to have a mindset on being a backup and be ready in case you're needed."