On Wednesday, Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett discussed the potential that his rookie safeties, Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo, boast. He also declared it a strong possibility that both play significant minutes this season.
Haslett said for now, the team is calling Thomas a strong safety, and Rambo a free safety, but that it doesn’t really matter because each needs to learn both positions because offenses shift alignments and motions from side to side.
But what is it that makes one a more natural strong safety and the other a more natural free safety?
Secondary coach Raheem Morris gave a good breakdown of each rookie’s skill set when asked yesterday after practice.
“The one thing I can say is Phillip is a natural box player,” he said. “When he gets in the box, he knows where to fit, he knows how to read his keys, he knows how to do those things. And Bacarri is a natural field – whole-field and half-field player – but can play in the box as well.”
He later added, “Bacarri’s skill set is his ability to touch the ball, his ability to have range, do some of those things and mix it up a little bit. Phillip was a little bit more of the blitzer. He was more in the box, the inside fire zones with some of their fire zones they had in college.”
The good thing for both players is that they came to the Redskins with a degree of familiarity of the team’s defensive schemes because both Fresno State and Georgia have taken pages from Haslett’s playbook.
Morris said Fresno State runs virtually the same defense, and that the school’s defensive coaches have visited Redskins Park to pick Haslett’s brain on the system. And Georgia’s defensive coaching staff includes former Redskins assistant Kirk Olivadotti, who brought with him elements of Washington’s version of the Cover-2 schemes.
That familiarity has helped each rookie’s learning process. Morris said Rambo and Thomas rank among the most advanced rookie safeties that he has coached.
Up next awaits the true test, however, when the team straps on pads in training camp and then after that, the preseason games.
“The next stage will determine how they’re able to do at either one of those [positions],” Morris said. “This stage right here is your ‘get lined up, figure out what the call is,’ ‘Am I doing the right thing, coach? Am I technically sound?’ Your next phase will be the physical aspect and the test, and getting them into the game and putting it all together.”
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