The Washington Redskins yesterday began picking apart Saturday night's 31-13 preseason victory over the Cleveland Browns, and the early reviews were that quarterback Mark Rypien bounced back from a bad week, Earnest Byner maintained a slight edge over Gerald Riggs in the backfield and tackle Joe Jacoby's near-stunning recovery from major knee surgery was almost complete.

Defensively, the news was more of the same, especially at left end where Pro Bowler Charles Mann continued a first-rate camp, virtually manhandling Cleveland tackle Tony Jones much of the first half.

Elsewhere, rookie linebacker Andre Collins got good, but not great, reviews in his second start. Linebacker Wilber Marshall had another solid night. And the anticipated battle between incumbent Greg Manusky and Kurt Gouveia at middle linebacker failed to materialize.

"Both of them were about average," said Richie Petitbon, the assistant head coach-defense, shrugging during intermission of a marathon film session.

Petitbon, Coach Joe Gibbs, General Manager Charley Casserly and the rest of the staff followed up a short night of sleep with a long day of work at Redskin Park. With rosters to be cut from 80 to 60 players Tuesday, they met late into the night to discuss decisions that probably won't be announced until the 4 p.m. deadline.

They were mulling over not only the future but the puzzling past. The Redskins ripped off 21 fourth-quarter points to win their second straight preseason game. But it was far from a dominant night. They rolled up 388 yards of total offense, but 209 of those came in the fourth quarter when both teams were substituting regularly.

The Redskins had their best rushing night of the summer, gaining 151 yards. But through three quarters their problems resembled those of the first two games -- 43 yards on 13 carries.

That's when quarterback Jeff Rutledge came off the bench to complete four of five passes for 106 yards, including a 40-yard touchdown throw to Gary Clark. That's also when Riggs broke loose for a 72-yard touchdown run. In all, the Redskins had quick drives of 95, 72 and 45 yards for scores.

In the Cleveland locker room, there was little consolation. An angry Coach Bud Carson said his offense was as impressive as it had been in his two seasons in Cleveland, but called his defense's effort "the worst game we've had. I was embarrassed."

It looked far different to the Redskins, who tried to celebrate the fourth-quarter explosion while still fretting over the first three periods.

"We just didn't look very smooth {on offense} the first part of the game," Gibbs said yesterday. "I don't know why and I've never figured it out. We work as hard as we can to correct it. It's just a play here, a player there. I've been concerned about the offense the last three games and I'm still concerned. Our offense is not where we want it to be."

One likelihood is that since the Redskins have so many formations and so much motion in their offense it always may be slow coming together. Gibbs said, yes, that was a possibility, "but where we're talking about are basic things -- late snap counts, blocking your man. . . . "

Surely the best news of the night came from Jacoby, the 31-year-old tackle who underwent reconstructive surgery on his left knee last November. He trotted onto the field for his first game this summer and was in for a handful of plays.

Gibbs hadn't seen all the films, but what he had seen convinced him of what he already knew: Jacoby is ready to play.

He may go about a half in Friday's preseason finale against the Los Angeles Rams at RFK Stadium and Gibbs said he fully expects Jacoby to be on the active roster when the season opens Sept. 9.

"He has looked good, very good," Gibbs said. "He has come right along. I know he was excited about playing. He was as excited about the touchdown {Rutledge's pass to Clark} as anyone."

Jacoby said he also considered the night a success and a steppingstone to more work.

"It's step by step," he said. "I got this one under my belt and now it's a matter of continuing to build the leg back up. It was fun to be back out there, and I didn't really think about the leg once I got on the field."

The Redskins face their toughest roster decisions in the offensive line, where they have nine veterans, plus a pair of highly regarded rookies, Mo Elewonibi and Tim Moxley, competing for seven -- or perhaps eight -- spots.

"We'll just work our way through it," Gibbs said. "That's a good problem to have because we know we'll be keeping good football players."

One of the few injuries in the Cleveland game came in the line when tackle Ray Brown suffered a sprained knee. It's not believed to be serious, but he will be evaluated again today.

Gibbs also gave Rypien high marks. Coming off a two-interception game against Pittsburgh, Rypien played only the first half and completed five of eight passes for 78 yards. Kelvin Bryant dropped what should have been another completion, and Rypien slipped a couple of times while throwing on the dirt of the baseball infield.

"He did pretty good," Gibbs said. "Some of the things that happened weren't his fault."

One of the things that happened to Rypien was that the Browns dominated the ball most of the first half. The Redskins ran only 15 plays the entire half, and Rypien's half was a short one.

The same thing happened to Byner, who departed early in the second half after gaining 18 yards on seven carries. One of his carries was a spectacular 12-yard touchdown run in which he broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage, cartwheeled over linebacker Eddie Johnson and somehow kept his balance.

"I honestly don't know how I stayed on my feet," he said. "I just kept going and somehow ended up in the end zone. We're still not running the ball like we should, but we did have our moments."

Riggs had several, rushing for 105 yards on eight carries. He also fumbled once and Gibbs said that his depth chart probably would not change this week.

Overall, it was not the game of their dreams. The offense still has problems and Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar led his team up and down the field (but scored only a field goal) in the first half.

"You've got to keep it in perspective," Casserly said. "You never know what to make of these games, but you can make evaluations. You see Walter Stanley make a big play {a 22-yard punt return}. You see Gerald Riggs make a big play. Those things are obvious. Those are good football plays and it doesn't matter who's on the field with them."

Redskins Notes:

Safety Clarence Vaughn's bruised left shoulder kept him out of Saturday night's game and probably will prevent him from playing in this week's game with the Rams. "He's very iffy," Petitbon said. . . .

Jimmie Johnson started ahead of Terry Orr at H-back and may be close to winning the job on a fulltime basis. Gibbs remains one of Orr's biggest fans, but the Redskins believe Johnson has a chance to be a special talent. . . . Tight end Mike Tice suffered a sprained neck. . . .

Trainer Bubba Tyer said Fred Stokes's sore shoulder will be re-evaluated at midweek and a decision will be made on whether or not he'll play against the Rams.