The Redskins figured that to be a contender they needed a hard-running, strong-blocking fullback. So this summer they gave up Tackle Riley Mattson and Center Fred Hageman to the Bears for Fullback Rick Casares and, incidentally, Kicker Bob Jencks. Casares was not the answer. Washington had also drafted Central State's Bob Briggs. He may be the answer. "He's a run-'em-down type," says a Redskin defensive man. The 230-pound Briggs is quick enough to run wide and agile enough to catch safety-valve passes and to turn the corner. These assets make him a most valuable mate for Running Back Charley Taylor, the Rookie of the Year for 1964. In that season Quarterback Sonny Jurgensen had to rely almost exclusively on Taylor, who was sixth in rushing and eighth in pass receptions. By the end of the season Taylor was worn out. With Briggs around Taylor should run less but even more effectively. And for the first time since he was traded to Washington, Jurgensen will have a full selection of offensive choices. There has never been any doubt about Jurgensen's arm—only Johnny Unitas is a better passer—and his receivers range from acceptable to excellent. Flanker Bobby Mitchell runs the fly pattern better than anyone else in the league. Angelo Coia has the elusiveness to get clear over the middle and the speed to get behind the deep defenders. Pres Carpenter is an average tight end. Pat Richter, a flop at tight end, has been shifted to the wide side to back up Coia. Away from heavy traffic in the new position, the 6-foot-5 Richter has become an excellent target for Jurgensen's accurate short passes. The offensive line is not a distinguished one, but it is young, strong and reasonably capable. It is better at pass-blocking than opening holes for runners. Coach Bill McPeak has tried to strengthen the latter by shifting Tackle George Seals to left guard (the running-guard position) and establishing Jim Snowden, a rookie with size and speed, at tackle.
McPeak's 1965 playbook is full of exotic maneuvers. The offense runs from a spread formation, and on every play the Redskins shift into eccentric spacings. Often both ends are split wide, with the two running backs set tight. "The beauty of this," says McPeak, "is that the defense cannot pick out a pattern to key on. The rushers have to hesitate before committing themselves, and this gives our blockers an advantage."
The Redskins will entrust the punting and field-goal kicking to John Seedborg, up for the second time after being shipped down to Joliet of the United League last year. But in the early exhibition season his punting was erratic, and the Redskins have no one else to fall back upon.
Look for continued improvement in the Washington defense. Last year the Redskins lowered their opponents' pass-completion average from 55.2% to 47.5% and led the NFL in interceptions with 34. Twelve of these were by Safety Paul Krause, an All-Pro in his first year. Although there is no significant defensive weakness, there is some softness on the left side. Corner Back Johnny Sample has lost a step, Linebacker Bob Pellegrini has never been very fast and Tackle Bob Toneff is feeling the aches of his 13th pro season. When the pass-rush lags, smart quarterbacks exploit the hole created by Pellegrini as he cheats over to cover the outside. However, with Fred Williams to spell Toneff and Willie Adams and John Reger behind Pellegrini, McPeak should be reasonably secure. Defensive reserves are generally good. This cannot be said of the offense where, especially, line replacements are thin. The one exception is at quarterback, where the Redskins are three-deep. Dick Shiner has made rapid progress and now, in his second year, has moved ahead of George Izo.
If Washington can break even in the first six games without major injuries the team might be the one to beat in the East. Six of the last eight Redskin games are with the teams that look weakest—the Steelers, Giants and Eagles—which gives Washington the chance to develop a good deal of momentum down the homestretch.
Rookie of the Year Charley Taylor has added breakaway excitement to a Redskin team that can strike suddenly both on the ground and in the air.