Practically written off as National Football League title contenders in pre-season forecasts, the Washington Redskins, 4-0, now look like sure playoff material. They enter Sunday's game against Dallas as the NFL's only unbeaten team, a distinction achieved when Tampa Bay knocked off previously unscathed Miami Monday night.
Washington's defense, which was supposed to be soft against the run, so far has played better than expected. In last weekend's 13-9 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, the Redskins also got another big offensive game from rookie wide receiver Charlie Brown, who has now caught five touchdown passes in his first four NFL games.
After watching Brown, you have to wonder how he lasted until the eighth round of the 1981 college player draft (he sat out what would have been his rookie pro season on the injured reserve roster). At South Carolina State, where he caught 61 passes his senior year, the coaching staff once clocked him at 4.5 seconds for 100 yards. Campbell rushes on
Despite the NFL's 57-day strike, running back Earl Campbell of the Houston Oilers is still hoping for a fifth straight 1,000 yards-gained season. It will be more difficult to achieve, however, after his 37-yard effort against New England last Sunday. That brought his season total to 327 yards, meaning he'd now have to average better than 134 yards a game the rest of the way to hit the thousand-yard mark - which is better than even he has ever done for a full season.
Campbell rushed for 1,450 yards in 1978, his rookie season; gained 1,697 yards in 1979; 1,934 in '80 and 1,376 last season, the only year he hasn't won the NFL rushing title. But even in that big 1980 campaign, when he came within 70 yards of beating O.J. Simpson's single-season record of 2,003, Earl averaged just under 129 yards per game.
One of the best things Campbell has going for him is his durability. In his first four years in the NFL, he missed only two games because of injury. Because of the power generated by his enormous thighs, Earl is always good for a couple of yards even without much blocking. Although he carries 237 pounds on a frame that goes only 5 ft. 11 in., he's still quick enough when he sees an opening to shoot through it before the hole can be filled. Campbell has averaged more carries per game (22.7) than any runner in NFL history. Robinson to the Rams?
When John Robinson resigned recently as head coach at the University of Southern California to become part of the school's adminstrative staff, there was immediate speculation that the Los Angeles Rams would sign him to replace Ray Malavasi. The Rams, with only two wins in their last 11 games going back over two seasons, seem to have a lot of talent on paper and very little desire on the field. Georgia Frontiere, who owns the franchise, said through a club spokesman that Malavasi is safe at least through this season.
Robinson, who turned down a multi-year million dollar contract last January to become head coach of the New England Patriots, claims that he is now committed to another life style and won't change. His friends think otherwise - saying that John will be back in football, probably as a pro coach, within six months.
The Rams, off to a slow 1-3 start, are beset with all sorts of internal problems. One is a heavy preference among the team's pass receivers for quarterback Vince Ferragamo, rather than Bert Jones, obtained during the off-season from the Baltimore Colts. ''Ferragamo knows the Ram system and our personal needs as receivers so much better than Jones that there is no comparison,'' one member of the team's staff told me after getting assurances that I wouldn't use his name. After the strike
The settlement of the NFL players strike hardly means an end to the many areas of disagreement between players and management. League commissioner Pete Rozelle reportedly is trying to get Congress to pass a law giving pro sports an antitrust exemption; there is still a considerable amount of labor unrest; and the question of how best to deal with drug abuse remains a kind of on-going problem. It's a sorry state of affairs when what goes on off the field attracts more attention from the public than the games themselves.
While the new US Football League is honoring all NFL player contracts so far, it isn't applying those standards to NFL assistant coaches, several of whom are probably going to take the money and jump to the rival league. On the Canadian front
While it never gets that much attention in the United States, Canada's Grey Cup game, the equivalent of the NFL's Super Bowl, usually has the kind of wide-open scoring that Americans like. The Edmonton Eskimos, led by quarterback Warren Moon, won their fifth straight Grey Cup last weekend with a 32-16 victory over the Toronto Argonauts. It was the last game in Canada for Eskimos head coach Hugh Campbell, who is leaving to take over the field operation of the Los Angeles Express in the new USFL.
One player Campbell would like to take with him is Moon, his American-born QB , who threw for 5,000 yards during the regular season (16 games), and then added another 319 in the playoffs. Moon started for the University of Washington in the 1978 Rose Bowl game.