- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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ASHBURN, Va. -- He opened training camp as the starter and held that spot for the first two games of the regular season. That’s when the Washington Redskins coaches decided they needed more from the position. And that meant rookie safety Bacarri Rambo went from full-time player to inactive for the past three games.
Rambo said he doesn’t understand why he’s not playing.
“No I don’t,” Rambo said. “I have no idea.”
It’s actually not that difficult: Rambo missed open-field tackles and the Redskins also wanted to go to another strategy, using veteran Reed Doughty as the strong safety and Brandon Meriweather as the free safety. Or they’d use Meriweather and three corners (sometimes with a fourth as the second safety). And because Rambo did not perform to expectations on special teams, the Redskins looked elsewhere there, too. Redskins coach Mike Shanahan made it clear at the time that he wanted to see how Rambo fared on special teams; coaches love when young players perform well on these units, giving them a sense that perhaps they’re ready for more.
This week, Rambo might get more but that’s still debatable. With Meriweather out and Doughty likely questionable with his concussion, the Redskins need help at safety. There’s a good chance that E.J. Biggers will play a big role here, especially against a pass-happy team such as Denver. It’s hard to imagine the Redskins would want Rambo in a single-high safety look against a veteran quarterback such as Peyton Manning.
“I’m just trying to get on special teams now,” Rambo said. “That’s the way I feel I can help the team. I’m just trying to do what it takes to get on special teams and the defense will come along.”
He said, despite not playing, he’s made strides.
“I’m learning the defensive scheme a lot better so making things a lot slower, learning how to fill in run gaps and just play coverages to defend certain routes,” he said.
The Redskins selected Rambo in the sixth round out of Georgia, where he started in the last 36 games in which he played. He also appeared in 11 games as a redshirt freshman. He had issues with marijuana in college, but he did not fall this far because of that: plenty of players get picked in the early rounds with the same problems. So it was going to be a difficult adjustment -- Rambo opened as a starter as much for what the Redskins lacked than for what he showed.
That doesn’t mean it’s been easy not playing.
“It’s been very difficult, just adversity,” Rambo said. “I’m just waiting for my opportunity like Meriweather told me, ‘Just be patient and be humble.’ It’s been very disappointing, mostly disappointed in myself most of all because I didn’t perform well enough to keep my starting position so I’m just working hard and doing whatever it takes to get back on the field.
“I’ve never been that guy to … lose my position. It’s something new I have to adjust to.”
When asked if he knew what he had to work on to get back on the field, Rambo said, “I haven’t really spoke about it.” But he also said, when asked if it was tough that he didn’t know exactly what was up, “I just go talk to the coaches and find out and I just try to get better during practice.”
There is no guarantee he’ll play Sunday, but defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said he’s seen improvements.
“He’s done a lot better, he understands it a little bit more,” Haslett said. “We’ll play it out this week and go with our gut feeling with who gives us the best chance.”