"It's a turn-about from last year," says Defensive Halfback John Sample. "We believe in ourselves. We believe we can win."
"They are going to find out real quick they can't drop the bomb on us," says McPeak, whose team was the Hiroshima of pro football last year. Opponents completed 55.2% of their passes against Washington, and the completions were good for a disastrous 14 yards a shot. The Washington pass defense could only get better. Two fine rookies—Tom Walters and Paul Krause—help the secondary, and the new experienced linebackers—Jim Carr, a converted defensive back, and Huff—lend mobility and wisdom to the defense. Huff closes the holes in the middle but—more important—his ability to lend help to either side cuts down on the territory that Bob Pellegrini must defend. Pellegrini is sure but slow; now he can cheat to the outside, covering more of the wide zone, depending on Huff to handle part of the territory to his inside. Carr, obtained from the Eagles in the Snead-Jurgensen trade, has the quickness of a defensive back and is alert at sniffing out screens and flat passes. The Redskin defensive line was good last year; with help from the rear, it should be much better.
One of Washington's troubles in 1963 was a lack of fast running backs. Now the Redskins have rookie Charley Taylor, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound sprinter, who was the most valuable collegian in the Bear-All-Star game, and Angelo Coia, obtained from the Bears, who complements the speed of Bobby Mitchell at spread end. Although Joe Hernandez, a transplant from Canada, is even faster and may beat out Coia. Jurgensen thus will have two of the fastest targets in the league to throw at. George Izo, a perennial second-string quarterback, had to take over for Jurgensen during the preseason schedule and did a commendable job; he has finally learned to control his desire to throw the bomb in favor of the surer short pass.
In Ozzie Clay, the Redskins have a superb punt and kickoff returner, and John Seedborg gives them a long-range kicker who can salvage three points.
Better, deeper quarterbacking, faster running backs, more good receivers help the Redskin offense, and Sam Huff has revitalized the defense. The Redskins will be spoilers, but they are not yet ready to move into contention. They will be sixth.
Joe Kuharich, who quit as head of league officials to lead the Philadelphia Eagles, must be rated as the bravest of the 14 NFL coaches; he has disposed of a great deal of the Philadelphia offense and some of the defense and is starting his first season with an almost completely rebuilt team.
He traded away Sonny Jurgensen and Tommy McDonald and got Norm Snead, two second-string linemen, a punter and a defensive back. He gave up Lee Roy Caffey to the Packers for untested Fullback Earl Gros (left). The newest of new brooms, Kuharich has swept the old Eagle squad clean.
He should have a better season than his predecessor, Nick Skorich, but, considering the time it takes to weld all the disparate elements of offense and defense into a cohesive whole, the improvement will not lift the Eagles off the bottom of the heap.
The Philadelphia offensive line will be improved with the addition of Jim Ringo (an ex-Packer) at center. Snead, who came from Washington for Sonny Jurgensen, does not have Jurgensen's poise or experience but will get better protection in the pocket than he had with the Redskins. Earl Gros, the ex-third-string Packer fullback, is better than anything the Eagles had last year but could remain third-string behind Tom Woodeschick and Israel Lang. On the credit side, the Eagles may have an exciting halfback in Timmy Brown. Red Mack, Ron Goodwin and Pete Retzlaff are all capable receivers. Sam Baker, who came from the Cowboys in the McDonald trade, should improve the Eagle kicking game.