On offense, Washington should be vastly improved because of one man, Wide Receiver Charley Taylor. Taylor, the leading receiver in NFL history with 635 catches, missed all of 1976 with a shoulder injury. He should take some of the double coverage off Frank Grant, and also give Billy Kilmer a dependable target for his favored sideline patterns. More important, Taylor should give a boost to the Redskin ground game with his ferocious blocking. Last season Mike Thomas somehow rushed for 1,101 yards, but John Rig-gins, a 1,044-yard man for the Jets the year before, had a long gain of just 15 yards and ran for only 572 overall.
A lot of the old Redskins are talking about a last push, but they aren't likely to catch St. Louis for a wild-card spot.
Philadelphia Eagle Placekicker Horst Muhlmann reported to camp in the greatest shape of his life. That takes care of the Eagles' offense. In the City of Brotherly Love, there is precious little else to be thankful for.
The Eagles don't have a first-round draft pick until 1979. And as if it weren't bad enough that they have no way to get a decent young player, they are now also inventing ways to throw away the ones they have. Quarterback Mike Boryla wanted out of Philadelphia, and the team, which assumed that he might be good trade bait, was willing to oblige him. But then the Eagles forgot to send Boryla his mandatory option letter by the stipulated date of May 1, 1977. So he became a free agent, made a deal for himself with Tampa Bay—and the Eagles got only an undisclosed draft choice in return.
Philadelphia did acquire Los Angeles Quarterback Ron Jaworski, the Polish Rifle, in a trade for the rights to Tight End Charle Young, but Jaworski has always been erratic. Luckily for Jaworski, Eagle passers can afford to be slightly erratic when passing to premier Receiver Harold Carmichael because at 6'8" Carmichael is able to haul down a lot of overthrows.
On defense, Coach Dick Vermeil will try a 3-4, relying heavily on veterans Manny Sistrunk and Art Thorns, the former Raider. The Eagles' strength is at linebacker, where middle man Bill Bergey plays several positions at once. Bergey spent a rigorous off-season, including two weeks deep in the Ozarks, "where I ran and growled and acted mean." Bergey also dropped 15 pounds, slimming to 237, and relinquished his role as the team's No. 1 beer drinker by swearing off the suds. "He is playing the best football of his life," marvels Vermeil.
John McVay took over the New York-New Jersey Giants when they were 0-7 at midseason and narrowly won himself a two-year contract by leading them to three wins in their last seven games. If McVay doesn't win this year—and he can't—he probably won't get to coach the second year of that contract. He will be fired by Andy Robustelli, who has been director of operations for the Giants for three seasons now and has never had a winner. In the Robustelli regime, the Giants are 10-32-0.
McVay has brought a cheerleader approach to his job, a welcome change from the businesslike atmosphere of Bill Arnsparger. In McVay's seven games his defense gave up an average of just 12 points. That defense, led by Linebacker Brad Van Pelt, is young and has added USC Defensive Tackle Gary Jeter from the draft. It should improve. Whether it can hold opponents below the meager point production of the Giant offense is another matter. Larry Csonka, recovered from knee surgery, doesn't plow up middles the way he used to, and the main quarterback hopes are Jerry Golsteyn, who has never played a game in the NFL—or in any other pro league—and Joe Pisarcik, a refugee from Canada. Csonka and the Giants will get zonked a lot.