Even with Bly, it is very doubtful that the Giants can squeeze by the talented Cowboys in the Capitol Division. But even without him, there is very little doubt that they can beat either Philadelphia or Washington. The Giants are a team on the make again.
The Washington Redskins put the ball in the air with more success and more abandon in 1967 than any other team in NFL history. Sonny Jurgensen, their portly and imperturbable quarterback, led the league in passing. Their three top receivers ranked first, second and fourth in pass receiving. And the team finished with a miserable 5-6-3 record, giving up 353 points, six more than they scored.
All the Redskins could do in 1967 was pass. While a pass offense is a sine qua non for pro football success, it is not a ne plus ultra. The Redskins' runners were feeble, their pass defenders myopic, their pass rush non-existent and their offensive line leaky. The kicking was worse than all the rest.
Now there is some doubt about the passing game. Jurgensen, who performed his passing feats with a gimpy elbow, had an operation in May and has not come back strong. By the fifth week of training, he was still not participating in regular drills for quarterbacks and said he was looking for a "sign of improvement." "I feel a twinge after every throw," he went on. "I cannot lift the prescribed 10-pound weight in the same motion I use to pass without it hurting."
Of course, this slow recovery was apparent earlier, when the Redskins felt it incumbent to give up a first draft choice to get Gary Beban from the Rams. They could have had Beban in the draft, before Jurgensen's operation, for less than a first, since the Rams picked him up on a second. If Jurgensen's elbow does not come around, the Redskins have only Harry Theofiledes, fresh off the taxi squad, and the untested Beban.
Jurgensen, a frank man on the order of the quarterback under whom he spent his salad years (Norman Van Brocklin), had his wrist slapped when he said publicly that the Redskins could not hope to be contenders in the Capitol Division without runners, but he was right. Even so, the Washington management drafted only one running back of any promise—Bob Brunet of Louisiana Tech. Still on hand are Steve Thurlow (disposed of by the New York Giants), A.D. Whitfield (ditto the Dallas Cowboys), Beban—if Graham decides he shows more promise running than throwing—and several other fellows called What's His Name?
Otto Graham may try to help the running game by moving Bobby Mitchell back to the backfield, and Mitchell, albeit a bit light to stand the gaff as a runner, should certainly help. Of course, in strengthening the running attack he would take at least that much from the passing game.
The three receivers of 1967—Mitchell, Charley Taylor and Jerry Smith—were, on the record, the best trio in the NFL. This statistic is a bit deceptive; since the Redskins had no other way to advance the ball except to throw it, Taylor, Smith and Mitchell had the most opportunities in the league to catch the ball. Jurgensen had really only two options when he knelt down in the huddle—punt or pass. Taylor caught 70 passes, Tight End Smith 67 and Mitchell 60. The Redskins have traded for another tight end—Marlin McKeever of the Minnesota Vikings. McKeever will be used primarily for his blocking ability, although he is a good receiver. With McKeever, Graham can move Smith out to flanker, put Mitchell at running back and retain most of the air threat, plus souping up the run.
The offensive line protected Jurgensen well enough for him to live through the 1967 season, and it is back intact. The Redskins may have helped themselves when they picked up John Wooten, the disaffected Cleveland guard who was dropped by the Browns after his involvement in a racial argument just before training. Wooten at the least lends the Skins much needed depth behind an adequate interior of Jim Snowden and Mitch Johnson at tackles, Ray Schoenke and Vince Promuto at guards and excellent Len Hauss at center.