The Rams, New York Jets, Dallas Cowboys and St. Louis Cardinals appear to have emerged as the new powers of the National Football League, strike style.
That’s the conclusion from rating the revamped squads on the basis of strength at quarterback and on defense--especially linebackers and defensive linemen. Defectors make the difference.
Nine others could be competitive: the Raiders, San Francisco 49ers, Denver Broncos, Pittsburgh Steelers, Houston Oilers, New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons.
But the rest, including the Chicago Bears and the entire NFC Central Division of America’s unionized heartland--excluding Tampa Bay--where the picket lines have held firm, seem to have little going for them. AFC WEST Raiders (2-0)
Starting quarterback: Vince Evans.
Defectors: Quarterback Marc Wilson, guard Bruce Wilkerson, running back Ethan Horton, offensive linemen Shelby Jordan (injured reserve), Chris Riehm (IR), Mickey Marvin (IR) and Curt Marsh (IR); linebackers Jamie Kimmel and Joe Cormier.
In two weeks, Coach Tom Flores has rebuilt his offense around Evans’ passing and running, and his experience with the Bears could make him effective in this junior varsity environment. The defense picked up briefly Friday when Howie Long and Bill Pickel returned, but then they walked back out. Denver Broncos (1-0-1)
Starting quarterback: Kent Karcher.
Defectors: Offensive linemen Dave Studdard, Winford Hood, Keith Kartz and Dave Baran; center Bill Bryan, wide receiver Steve Watson, running back Bobby Micho, defensive lineman Walt Bowyer, linebacker Jim Ryan.
Only two or three of the defectors are impact players. Karcher knows some of the Bronco offense from the ’86 camp and has an adequate offensive line to help him. The defense looks average. Kansas City Chiefs (1-1)
Starting quarterback: Matt Stevens.
The highlight of Stevens’ UCLA career was a Rose Bowl victory as a junior. He may rise to the occasion, but he doesn’t have much of an offensive line in front. The secondary has some talent. San Diego Chargers (1-1)
Starting quarterback: Mike Kelley.
Not one of the new powerhouses. Some players have played in the NFL, including tight end Harry Holt and wide receiver Calvin Muhammad. Then there is offensive tackle Curtis Rouse, who weighs 340 pounds. Seattle Seahawks (1-1)
Starting quarterback: Bruce Mathison.
Defectors: None (center Stan Eisenhooth walked back out)
Mathison, a former backup with the Chargers who was in the Raiders’ camp this year, signed Thursday. He’ll work with former Bronco running back Rick Parros and ex-Buffalo wide receiver Jimmy Teal, but the defense is desperate. AFC CENTRAL Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1)
Starting quarterback: Steve Bono or Reggie Collier.
Defectors: Center Mike Webster, running back Earnest Jackson.
Webster’s return this week anchored the offensive line, and Jackson provides some balance for a fair passing threat. The defense is sandlot, but the kicker is NFL veteran David Trout. Cincinnati Bengals (1-1)
Starting quarterback: Adrian Breen.
Defectors: Linebacker Reggie Williams.
Coach Sam Wyche’s best hope for offense may be to start himself at quarterback. Williams’ presence could steady the nervous defense. Cleveland Browns (1-1)
Starting quarterback: Jeff Christensen.
Christensen could start for almost any of the strike teams. He has been with four NFL teams in his checkered career. The biggest name on defense is lineman Darryl Sims, who was the Steelers’ first-round draft choice in ’85. Houston Oilers (1-1)
Starting quarterback: John Witkowski.
Defectors: Nose tackle Doug Smith.
Witkowski has been with the Lions and Oilers and has some former United States Football League receivers. Smith toughens the middle of the defense against the run, and the secondary has good coverage potential. AFC EAST New York Jets (2-0)
Starting quarterback: David Norrie.
Defectors: Defensive ends Mark Gastineau and Marty Lyons, defensive tackle Joe Klecko.
The offense has some skilled ball-handlers to help the inexperienced Norrie, such as running back Maurice Turner and wide receivers Derrick Gaffney and Michael Harper, who have been around NFL camps, but the offensive line looks weak. The defensive line is the best in this league, and NFL veterans Jay Brophy and Jim Haslett loom as solid linebackers in this kind of competition. New England Patriots (1-1)
Starting quarterback: Bob Bleier.
Defectors: Running back Tony Collins, guards Ron Wooten and Sean Farrell, cornerback Raymond Clayborn, safety Darryl Holmes.
The Patriots no doubt will try for ball control, considering Bleier’s limited background--University of Richmond--and a shaky defensive front. Miami Dolphins (1-1)
Starting quarterback: Kyle Mackey.
This Dolphin defense truly is “no-name,” and Mackey, 25, from North Texas State, won’t be mistaken for Dan Marino. He may have two effective targets in wide receiver George Farmer, formerly with the Rams, and tight end Lawrence Sampleton. Indianapolis Colts (0-2)
Starting quarterback: Gary Hogeboom.
Defectors: Hogeboom, wide receiver Walter Murray, cornerback Jim Perryman, nose tackle Willie Broughton.
With the best quarterback in the division, the Colts have a chance to make up ground, if the strike lasts long enough. The defense isn’t much but then it never was. NFC WEST New Orleans Saints (1-1)
Starting quarterback: John Fourcade.
Defectors: Wide receiver Eric Martin, defensive linemen Bruce Clark and Tony Elliott, defensive backs Reggie Sutton, Michael Adams, Antonio Gibson and Gene Atkins.
Ironically, the longtime doormats of the division may have been more competitive before the strike. Only one of the defectors is an offensive player. San Francisco 49ers (1-1)
Starting quarterback: Bob Gagliano.
Several 49ers, including Joe Montana and his favorite old receiver, Dwight Clark, seemed ready to rejoin the team Friday, then were persuaded to change their minds. The 49ers are left with a seasoned running back in former Packer Del Rodgers, and late linebacker cuts Tom Cousineau and Keith Browner give the defense some stability. Atlanta Falcons (1-1)
Starting quarterback: Jeff Van Raaphorst or Erik Kramer.
Defectors: Linebackers Tim Green and Joe Costello (IR).
The offense appears to be in the best recent Falcon tradition--pathetic--but the defense could be exceptional with the return of Green and the re-signing of former Ram and Falcon Jim Laughlin. In this crowd, Emanuel Weaver is a solid nose tackle, and even the well-traveled Booker Reese could be a star at defensive end. Rams (0-2)
Starting quarterback: Steve Dils.
Defectors: Dils, running backs Mike Guman and Charles White, offensive tackle Alvin Wright, safety Nolan Cromwell, linebacker Jim Collins, nose tackle Greg Meisner, defensive end Shawn Miller, punter Dale Hatcher.
The Rams may be more loyal to Coach John Robinson than to their union. Suddenly, with defections of the last two days, they have a smart, steady hand at quarterback and a balance of strength on defense, relative to their opponents. If somebody can snap the ball deep to Hatcher, they will be difficult to score against. NFC CENTRAL Chicago Bears (2-0)
Starting quarterback: Mike Hohensee.
Coach Mike Ditka prays for a short strike. This is a squad without “name” talent. Only three players have ever appeared in an NFL game. Wouldn’t Buddy Ryan like to play them now? Minnesota Vikings (2-0)
Starting quarterback: Larry Miller or Keith Bishop.
The Vikings, after a late start, built their squad from a tryout camp at Memphis. Their best move probably was signing some of their former defensive backs: Rufus Bess, David Evans and Ted Rosnagle. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1)
Starting quarterback: John Reaves.
At 37, Reaves gets another shot to fulfill his long-frustrated NFL ambitions. The defensive celebrity is Marcus Quinn, who intercepted 12 passes for the Oakland Invaders of the United States Football League in ’84. Green Bay Packers (0-1-1)
Starting quarterback: Alan Risher.
Defectors: Defensive back Elbert Watts (IR).
Although a local Green Bay poll indicated that few knew who Alan Risher was, he played for Louisiana State and later in the USFL. But Risher may not know who his teammates are. If he can move the offense a little bit, kicker Max Zendejas may help. Detroit Lions (0-2)
Starting quarterback: Todd Hons.
Coach Darryl Rogers is more comfortable with his quarterback than most NFL coaches this weekend. He coached Hons at Arizona State, where Hons was voted MVP of the ’83 Fiesta Bowl. One reliable wide receiver may be former Oklahoma quarterback Danny Bradley, who hung around the Rams for a couple of years. Only four players have played in an NFL game. NFC EAST Dallas Cowboys (1-1)
Starting quarterback: Danny White.
Defectors: White, defensive linemen Randy White, Ed Jones and Don Smerek; running back Tony Dorsett, wide receivers Lam Jones and Mike Renfro, linebacker Chris Duliban (IR).
The Cowboys may be the best team in this league, despite no experience in their offensive line. Anticipating a strike, they pre-signed most of their starters when they cut them in training camp, so they all know the system. Now, their fading veterans have another chance to dominate as they once did. St. Louis Cardinals (1-1)
Starting quarterback: Shawn Halloran.
Defectors: Wide receivers Roy Green, J.T. Smith and Adrian McBride (IR); running backs Earl Ferrell, Broderick Sargent and Derrick McAdoo; offensive tackle Lance Smith, defensive end Curtis Greer, linebackers E.J. Junior amd Jeff Paine (IR), kick returner Vai Sikahema, defensive back Leonard Smith.
The Cardinals lead the league in defectors with a dozen, and most of them are on offense, which could mean a lot of trouble for the defector-less Redskins Sunday. Halloran may be the best of the untested quarterbacks. He broke some of Doug Flutie’s records at Boston College. Philadelphia Eagles (1-1)
Starting quarterback: Guido Merkens.
This is Merkens’ nearest brush with stardom. He played five positions with the Saints and Oilers until the strike gave him his big chance. But the only other recognizable Eagles are Saint retreads Elois Grooms and Derland Moore in the defensive line, and ex-Ram wide receiver Otis Grant. Washington Redskins (1-1)
Starting quarterback: Ed Rubbert or Tony Robinson.
The Redskin picket line has held firm, but 24 of the non-union players, including Rubbert, were in training camp. NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle cleared former Tennessee star Robinson, who has served time on a drug conviction, to play. The real Eric Jeffries--someone impersonating him tried out with the Giants--is a wide receiver. New York Giants (0-2)
Starting quarterback: Jim Crococchia.
The Giants lost out on both ends by failing to sign players early and then finding no veterans willing to cross the line. Crococchia played at Pennsylvania. Warren Thompson, who was with the club in camp, will try to take the place of all those All-Pro linebackers.