Shanahan looking to keep Fletcher fresh, get better execution out of Rambo

September 24, 2013

London Fletcher on Sunday came off the field for eight snaps as his coaches try to improve his effectiveness. (Associated Press)

Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said on Monday that inside linebacker London Fletcher had a slightly lighter workload on Sunday because coaches wanted to improve his effectiveness. Meanwhile, the coach said that multiple factors led to rookie safety Bacarri Rambo not playing a single defensive snap after starting in Week 1 and 2.

In a rare move, the Redskins used backup inside linebacker Nick Barnett in place Fletcher here and there on Sunday in an attempt to keep Fletcher healthy and fresh, Shanahan said.

Fletcher on Sunday played in and started his 243rd consecutive regular season game, tying Bill Romanowski for the most by a defensive player since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger.

The 38-year-old, playing in his 16th season, appeared to struggle in last week’s game at Green Bay, as he recorded only one tackle and one assist. Shanahan said that during last week’s planning, the coaches decided that Barnett, himself an 11th-year veteran with extensive starting experience, could be used to help both Fletcher and the defense as a whole.

“To be honest with you, we’ve been talking about giving London a few plays off. We don’t want to overwork him, especially with the offenses we go against nowadays with the hurry-up and the no-huddle,” Shanahan said. “I’d like to give him a few more plays off, not to just wear him down. That’s what happened yesterday. I think he got a few in the second half. I was hoping that Nick would get a few in the first half, but we’re trying to keep London at 100 percent and we don’t want to set him back at all.”

Barnett played eight snaps throughout the game and recorded two tackles. Fletcher, who recorded a sack on the first play of the game, finished the day with eight tackles.

Shanahan said that the Redskins remain confident in Fletcher.

“First of all, we feel very good about London, but we want to keep him healthy. We want to keep him fresh,” Shanahan said. “We think Nick is doing a good job, too.”

Shanahan said that Rambo didn’t play on defense partially because of game planning and partially because of poor execution in Weeks 1 and 2.

Shanahan explained that the need to stop the run prompted the Redskins to stick with a seven-man front, but that the team also needed to keep three cornerbacks on the field to cover the Lions’ three-receiver sets. Strong safety Brandon Meriweather played center field and served as the last line of defense.

“We had a different game plan. They started in a three-wide-receiver package and so we kept our base defense on the field, but with three wide receivers, if you ever want to play man coverage, you want a corner to match up with a wide receiver. So at the free safety we put [Meriweather] back there rather than [Rambo] because of his experience as a tackler and a center fielder. That was our game plan going in.”

Shanahan said that Rambo does, however, need to do a better job of executing. He has done well in coverages but has had a number of missed tackles on defense. Rambo played on 19 snaps on special teams. He suffered from cramps during a first-quarter special teams play, but returned to action. He didn’t record any special teams tackles, however.

Shanahan didn’t say if the game plan would change and provide Rambo with more opportunities on defense next week.

“When he gets his opportunities, he’s got to take advantage of it,” Shanahan said. “ We’re not here to keep his spirits up. When he does play special teams or whatever role you’re in, you better play it 100 percent and make some plays. If he doesn’t play anything on defense, he better play well on special teams and if you don’t play well on special teams and you’re not a starter on defense, then you won’t be dressing. So everybody’s got a role and it changes during the season.”

Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag on Tuesday.

What’s ahead:

● Mike Jones’s mailbag posts mid-day on Tuesday.

More on the Redskins and NFL:

Shanahan: Two key calls were correct | Pleased with offensive balance

Cofield: Defense isn’t playing well enough to win Forbath hopeful for Oakland

Chester: RGIII good enough to win | Garcon: He’s still not himself

D.C. Sports Bog: Smoot: RGIII a ‘brat,’ Shanahan ‘Red Lobster’ | More Bog

The Early Lead: Cardinals’ Johnson loses part of finger | More NFL

Follow: @MikeJonesWaPo | @MarkMaske | @Insider | Insider on Facebook

Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
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