It’s not a preview of life without Brandon Meriweather. Not when the first-team defense won’t be playing. But it is another chance for Bacarri Rambo, his likely replacement, to prove he can help as a fill-in.
If Rambo struggles, the Redskins will have to consider different alternatives. If he plays well, they can at least hope Rambo can get them through the first two weeks while Meriweather is suspended for two games for another hit the NFL deemed illegal.
The issue, though, is that Rambo mostly played free safety last season; Meriweather is a strong safety. Ryan Clark can play strong safety – the safeties must be interchangeable; occasionally Clark would have to play in the box based on a shift in formation.
But Clark is primarily a free safety. If he moves to the box, the Redskins lose his strength: communication. It’s the free safety’s job to alert the secondary to coverage changes or keep them alert on what might be coming. It’s an area Rambo needs to improve as this story discusses.
“He’s ready,” Clark said. “He’s worked on things coaches have focused on, which is tackling and being aggressive. For us it’s figuring out what he’s most comfortable doing. I played 10 years now so it doesn’t matter what position I play. He just has to do what he’s most comfortable doing, so I’ll let him do it.”
It’s more than just Rambo’s tackling. He has improved in that area this summer, understanding the angles he must take; that way if he misses his
help can limit the damage.
“If I need to play strong I can play strong, if I need to play free I can play free,” Rambo said.
What helps Washington in the first two weeks of the season: the opponents. Neither Houston nor Jacksonville is considered an offensive force. Meriweather missed the opener last season, which happened to be against Philadelphia’s new-look explosive attack.
The Redskins still need to look at safeties Trenton Robinson and Akeem Davis. Both could help on special teams; Davis in particular has stood out here. But neither likely is a solution from scrimmage at this point. Davis knows the defense, but when he’s on the field he struggles to apply that knowledge at the desired speed.
The Redskins could pick up someone off waivers after final cuts are made this weekend. They can also use corner E.J. Biggers at this spot in a pinch, as they did at times last season. It’s not his best role, but he at least knows what to do.
What they really need is Rambo to fill in and play at a decent level. A good pass rush can offset a lot, but certainly not all, issues. The tough part for Washington is that Meriweather was playing well this summer. Now, Rambo must do his part.
“I have grown a lot,” Rambo said. “Night and day. I have matured a lot and I see the game a lot different. I’m mentally prepared and the game has really slowed down and it’s allowed me to play faster.”