- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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RICHMOND, Va. -- Sixth-round pick Bacarri Rambo impressed the Redskins enough during the spring workouts that they inserted him with the starters on the first day of training camp. He’s done nothing to leave that spot, an area where the Redskins were weak. That certainly helped his ascension.
What he’s learning: How to stay disciplined. At Georgia he had the reputation for gambling a bit too often, which led to big plays by himself but the occasional one by the opposition. However, he’s also learning how to correct his mistakes right away, and the best example provides a snapshot of his development. Early in camp he misread a route, seeing one receiver run a deep cross while missing another taking off on a post. Rambo jumped the crossing route, leaving the receiver on the post wide open for a big play. The offense ran that route the next day, Rambo stayed home and broke up a pass to the wideout running the post. Lesson learned. It helps that he sits next to veteran safety Reed Doughty in the meeting rooms; the coaches love Doughty for his preparation and knowledge of the defense. And Rambo, who calls himself a film junkie, asks plenty of questions. On the above example, he adjusted after making his mistake, one made by his eyes and hunger to make a big play. His speed is OK and can be enhanced when he combines it with knowledge, as this play showed.
“I kept backpedaling and [the quarterback] thought he would throw to the post, but I was there to make a play,” Rambo said. “They tell me [something] one time and I picked it up, and I don’t allow it to happen again. … It’s more assignment football. Your mind has to be rolling. You have to pay more attention to detail.”
“He does not make the same mistake twice,” secondary coach Raheem Morris said. “When he’s out there it flows natural for him. Anything that does give him trouble he’ll come in and look at it and find out what the problems are, to fix them for the next time he’s out there.”
What needs to be seen: Can he anticipate what routes will be run based on where the receivers are aligned? It’s not the same as in college, because the hashmarks are in different spots, changing the routes that can be run. Any hesitation at the deep safety spot can lead to big plays by the offense. Also, Rambo will have to play in the box at times based on the formation or motion by the offense. It can be a harder role because of the run-support duties, but it’s a part of what the Redskins need their safeties to do. And it’s always a transition for any free safety when it comes to using their eyes well; and tackling in the middle of the field (he did a good job of this at Georgia) or covering the deep middle -- can he play with the same anticipation and instincts he had in college? Rambo was a ballhawk in college, but what the Redskins could use is steady safety play. Last season, they made few plays and gave up too many. The cornerbacks need to trust the man behind them, and that wasn’t the case in 2012.
What stands out: His knowledge of the defense. It helps that Georgia used a similar scheme, but no college defense is as complex as those in the NFL. So during the five week break between minicamp and training camp, Rambo talked with former Redskins linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti, now Georgia’s inside linebackers coach. He and other members of Georgia’s staff -- defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and secondary coach Scott Lakatos, tutored him more in the complexities of the scheme. His background not only helps him learn the scheme, but it also has enabled him to call out signals to longtime veterans with confidence.
“You have to be able to communicate with those people,” said Morris, who has praised him during practice for how he communicates. “It’s a big step for a rookie, but the big test is Thursday.”
Current projection: Starter. It’s a bit surprising to type that word, but Rambo hasn’t looked out of place during practice. Will that continue in games? Redskins coach Mike Shanahan has always said he waits until the games to more accurately judge safeties. So Rambo doesn’t have any job clinched yet. But the competition isn’t stiff, so this is his job to lose.