What worries the Washington Redskins most? The Giants easy schedule, based on last season's fifth-place finish. What can the Skins do about it? Try to beat New York twice and let the chips fall where they may.
The best thing about Washington is its consistency. The Redskins are the only team in the 1980s to win a playoff game in the year following a Super Bowl victory. Both their championships came in strike years, and there's a reason. While other teams were in turmoil, the Redskins hung together.
On another club, linebacker Wilber Marshall's $6 million contract as a newcomer might have raised all sorts of hell. On the Skins, Dexter Manley was the only public complainer, and he had to do most of his bellyaching from home because he was suspended for a month for a reported "minor" drug infraction. When a superteam arises—the Giants in '86, the Bears in '85, the Niners in '84—Washington loses. When the rest of the league is having problems, the Redskins step in and take it all. That's their history. They're consistent.
Here and there you can find nagging little questions. If 33-year-old Doug Williams's left knee doesn't hold up (he has had surgery five times), will Jay Schroeder, provided he isn't traded, be ready to take over again at quarterback? Is wideout Gary Clark's pulled hamstring a chronic injury? Is Timmy Smith (204 yards rushing in the '88 Super Bowl) the tailback of the future—or a guy who can't stay in shape? And why has Kelvin Bryant turned into such a wimp in the backfield?
But the pluses far outweigh the problems. Washington has big league offensive and defensive linemen, wide receivers and linebackers. Its secondary is the best in the NFC. General manager Bobby Beathard was reluctant to stand pat; George Rogers, Vernon Dean and Rich Milot are all gone. The coaching staff remains intact. One other thing. No books were written. No videos.
The draft? Well, free agent Marshall was a draft choice of sorts, but keep your eye on a trio of exciting little runners: Jamie Morris. Mike Oliphant and Willard Reaves, a 29-year-old refugee from the CFL. They're Beathard types all the way.
Here's what will happen to the NEW YORK GIANTS in 1988. In the first six games, the tough part of their schedule, they'll go 3-3. It will take them that long to get their legs back after Bill Par-cells' merciless training camp. Everyone will write about another Giant slide.
But just one of their final 10 games ( New Orleans) is against an '87 playoff team. The run begins with Detroit, Atlanta and Detroit again and ends at home with Phoenix. Kansas City and the Jets. How can the Giants fail to make the playoffs?
One way: if the offensive tackles break down. It happened last year. Brad Benson got old in a hurry on the left side. William Roberts, filling in for Karl Nelson on the right, had a miserable season. Parcells said he didn't coach very well, either. I know what he means.
Remember? Giants at Dallas in a Monday-nighter last November. Roberts is getting overrun by Too Tall Jones. On the sidelines Parcells is standing with his arms folded. No help is in sight for Roberts, either from the tight end or the blocking fullback. No rest for a series. Too Tall crashes in again, quarterback Phil Simms goes down with a knee injury, and the season is over.