When the Washington Redskins reported to training camp is Carlisle, Pennsylvania on July 23, 1982, there were a few things that were certain. No doubt, there was a large contingent of Redskins—118 reported to Dickenson College, this being in the days before camp roster limits and the salary cap. And all of their important players were signed in contrast to the previous few seasons when they suffered from holdouts by the likes of John Riggins and Mark May and walkouts by Lemar Parrish and Joe Lavender.
Still, there were many more questions than answers. A player's strike loomed on the horizon. The Redskins were coming off of an 8-8 season and it was not clear if their talent level was more like the 8-3 finish to the season or the 0-5 start. Their schedule was the toughest in the league based on the opponents' 1981 records. There were question marks at many positions.
Among the areas where questions abounded was the defensive line. Dexter Manley was showing some flash at defensive end but not much consistency. Matt Mendenall was mediocre during his best moments at the other end spot and second-year player Darryl Grant, drafted as a center, was a wild card in the mix, being looked at as both a tackle and an end. It was so unsettled that Joe Gibbs and defensive coordinator Richie Petitbon even considered switching to a 3-4 alignment.
"If we see the ends just aren't getting it done, we will consider switching to a 3-4," Gibbs said. "I'd even do it once the season begins. We aren't going to be stubborn and get killed at end like we did last year."
Tackle Dave Butz, the one pillar on the line, volunteered to switch to nose tackle. "I'm paid to play, not paid to stay at only one position," Butz said. "No one has ever asked me if I'd go to nose guard, but I've let the coaches know that it's okay with me."
There was also considerable uncertainty in the kicking game. Mark Moseley, the team's kicker for the previous eight seasons, was getting a stiff challenge from rookie Dan Miller, a rookie in whom the Redskins had invested an 11th-round draft pick.
Miller was impressive in Carlisle, booming 51- and 52-yard field goals in an inter squad scrimmage and earning a ringing endorsement from special teams coach Wayne Sevier.
"No one should sell Dan Miller short," Sevier said. "This guy is a quality kicker with a very strong leg and excellent accuracy. He may kick soccer style but his ball goes straight (because the ball hits on top of his foot) instead of veering to the left like most soccer kickers. I'm confident he could make it from 60 yards."
Moseley was not fazed at all, at least not outwardly. "I'm a long way from being done, he said. "If I left here, I know there would be teams out there wanting me. But I don't want to leave. I want to stay in Washington. They want to motivate me, that's all. I can feel a great year coming, all the way to Hawaii (and the Pro Bowl)."
While Moseley's words may have seemed to be false bravado at the time, it turns out that he underestimated what king of year he would have. After hanging on to his job, Moseley went on to win the NFL Most Valuable Player award in 1982.
Rich Tandler is the author of Gut Check, The Complete History of Coach Joe Gibbs' Washington Redskins. For details on this unique book, visit http://www.GutCheckBook.com.
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