One big plus for the defense is No. 1 draft pick Mike Mamula, the right-side pass rusher who started slowly but came on with a burst in the final exhibition game, last Thursday night against the Steelers. Add his efforts to those of guys like William Fuller and Andy Harmon, and you've got a big-league pass rush that can cover a lot of deficits.
I had hoped that owner Jack Kent Cooke would give his coach, Norv Turner, and general manager, Charley Casserly, time to dig their way out of the deep hole that the Washington Redskins have fallen into. But true to form, Cooke opened the preseason by guaranteeing a winning record, which, if I've calculated right, means 9-7 or better. If the Skins win eight, it will be a minor miracle.
Turner and Casserly, both extremely competent people, have run into flat-out bad luck, and they're sound enough to get things straightened out if Cooke is patient. But he's 82 and is frantically pressing the WIN button.
The pluses on this team are Heath Shuler, a young, talented quarterback; Michael Westbrook, a potential star wide-out; Ken Harvey, a terrific pass rusher; and two aging stars who still keep their game at a high level, cornerback Darrell Green and wide receiver Henry Ellard. The minuses are the offensive and defensive lines; the lack of a proven runner; a defensive coordinator, Ron Lynn, who has yet to make the playoffs after nine years in the NFL with three different teams; and a two-year decline that resulted in a combined record of 7-25. That kind of losing is hard to shake.