Haslett thinks a rookie safety will start

Haslett thinks a rookie safety will start
June 24, 2013, 10:45 am
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Redskins prepare for the move to Richmond

So, according to Jim Haslett a rookie safety is going to start for the Redskins this season. He either doesn’t know who it will be or he’s not saying.

Earlier this month at minicamp the Redskins defensive coordinator said the following when asked if it was realistic to think that either Phillip Thomas or Bacarri Rambo could start this year:

“I think one of them. Yeah, I really do think one of them will be on the grass. I’m not sure which one, but one of them I think is going to have to... I think they’ll all help us. I think all three of them are going to help us. I just don’t know to what extent yet.”

So which one will it be? Thomas was the higher draft pick, having been selected in the fourth round (119th overall) while they picked up Rambo in the sixth (191st). But most scouts figured the two players to be roughly equal in terms of talent with the skills to go in the third or fourth round. But Rambo slid due to character concerns and as long as he keeps on the straight and narrow the draft position difference won’t matter. Besides, once you get on the field it comes down to ability and the round you were drafted in becomes nearly irrelevant.

Haslett didn’t give much away when asked to comment on what each player could bring to the team. “He’s got great ball skills,” Haslett said of Thomas. “[He] has the ability to come up with key plays, big interceptions. Both of them [Thomas and second-round CB David Amerson] led the NCAA in interceptions. Phillip’s got good size, good enough speed. The guy likes football, understands football, studies football.”

Haslett also praised Rambo’s nose for the ball. “Bacarri is a guy – he’s a really good athlete,” he said. “[He] was a high school quarterback. Also has good ball skills, has the chance to make a lot of plays for you. And that’s what wins in the league.”

It was no coincidence that the Redskins drafted three defensive backs who have the ability to generate turnovers. Although they were tied for third in the NFL in interceptions with 21, the defensive backs got only 11 of them. They figure there were a lot of lost opportunities out there.

Ability is one factor in an NFL rookie being able to start. Opportunity is the other. The Redskins have 21 of their 22 starters coming back from last year. The one not returning is free safety Madieu Williams. That spot suits Rambo better.

“We’re saying Rambo is a free safety and Phillip is a strong safety,” said Haslett, quickly adding that they both will need to be able to play both positions due to changes in offensive formation, motion, and other such factors.

But with Brandon Meriweather being better suited to the strong safety spot it might make more sense to have Rambo on the field with him. Pairing Thomas and Meriweather would have some advantages but some serious drawbacks as well. Having two players who are natural strong safeties on the field at the same time might help shut down the run but multiple receiver sets and long passes could make for big problems.

So the late-June view of the situation is that if one of the two rookies is lining up as a starter either in Week 1 or very early in the season it is likely to be Rambo. But there are a few weeks of training camp and four preseason games to sort everything out so that is very much subject to change.  

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