The Eagles are an emotional team, one of peaks and valleys; you never know when they will come up flat. That was one of Vermeil's concerns during the off-season. Another was the Eagles' lack of depth.
Philadelphia is well fixed at linebacker and on the defensive line, where Middle Guard Charlie Johnson is one of the NFL's best—and most underrated. But there are far too many do-it-all people on the club. If Wilbert Montgomery gets hurt, there goes the running attack. If it's Harold Carmichael, the passing game is in big trouble. Ditto Ron Jaworski at quarterback, although ex-Giant Joe Pisarcik gives Vermeil a better backup than he's ever had.
Vermeil had to replace ancient Bobby Howard at left cornerback, and has found a winner there in No. 1 draft pick Roynell Young. Perry Harrington, drafted to take over from Leroy Harris at fullback, has been inactive because of a bruised thigh. Right Guard Woody Peoples is 37, but no one's been able to replace him. And Philadelphia will open the season with Tight End Keith Krepfle out for two or three games with a separated shoulder.
The Bud Wilkinson experiment didn't work, so now ST. LOUIS has gone the other way, the time-tested way, by choosing a high-level assistant coach to take over. Jim Hanifan's credentials are impressive, particularly on offense. As the architect of Don Coryell's offensive line at St. Louis, he created a unit that tied an alltime record for keeping the quarterback vertical, allowing only eight sacks in 1975. As Coryell's first lieutenant on offense last year, Hanifan helped coordinate a San Diego passing attack that generated the NFL's second-highest total yardage ever.
Clearly, the Cards under Hanifan will be a fun team to watch, with O.J. Anderson running to daylight behind Dan Dierdorf's blocks, O.J. catching those little Terry Metcalf-type swing passes from Jim Hart (Hanifan promises plenty of those this year), Mel Gray streaking downfield for a long one, Steve Little keeping the fans guessing on every place-kick. But even in their good years the Cards followed a pattern of flashy offense and desperate defense, and that's the way they look now. Here and there are some interesting new faces. Top draft choice Curtis Greer could be an early-season starter at defensive end. Also, the strong play of young linebackers Calvin Favron, Charles Baker and John Barefield has turned a former trouble spot into a strength. Certainly Roger Wehrli is one of the greatest cornerbacks the game has seen. The Cards are coming off two good drafts. One more, particularly on defense, and they should be there.
Ray Perkins walks the halls of Giants Stadium with an expression in his deep-set eyes that his NEW YORK players have come to call The Look. It isn't a happy look. On the Monday after a loss to Pittsburgh in the first exhibition game, Perkins put his troops through a wicked 45-play full-contact scrimmage. That night they called a players-only meeting, the tone of which was serious.
Perkins is subject to moods, to depressions. "The loneliness of command," says General Manager George Young. Under Perkins, the Giants did some unusual things last year. They beat the Rams in L.A. They beat Tampa Bay exactly the way you're not supposed to—by outmuscling the Bucs on the ground. When they played the Cowboys in Dallas, the Giant players followed the captains out for the coin toss and hurled taunts at America's Team. You wondered whether they'd be introducing the seniors next. But the Giants pulled an el foldo at the end, and the Colts ran it up on them in the last game.
Certainly there is no timidity in Perkins. Starters he felt didn't pull their weight have been cut loose; hustling rookies have been given the long look.
In 1979 Perkins drafted a quarterback no one had ever heard of, and now Phil Simms looks like the first good one the Giants have developed all by themselves since Charlie Conerly. Perkins cut Doug Van Horn and a sore-kneed Ron Mikolajczyk from a very green and inexperienced offensive line this summer, and he dropped last year's fullback, Ken Johnson, to make room for a San Diego question mark, Bo Matthews.
The heart of the team is still the fine linebacking trio of Brad Van Pelt, Harry Carson and Brian Kelley, and a defense that can, on occasion, rise up and play inspired football—but only on occasion. And that's why Ray Perkins walks the halls.