Meriweather’s suspension could shuffle Redskins’ defensive backfield


Bacarri Rambo will see more playing time Thursday night. (Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Given the two-game suspension of strong safety Brandon Meriweather, second-year player Baccari Rambo is expected to get plenty of work in Thursday’s preseason finale against Tampa Bay.

Rambo is Coach Jon Gruden’s first option to fill in for Meriweather for the two regular-season games he’ll miss, the Sept. 7 season-opener at Houston and Sept. 14 at FedEx Field, assuming the suspension isn’t overturned or reduced.

But according to veteran Ryan Clark, it’s an open question which safety role Rambo will fill on an interim basis when the regular season kicks off: Meriweather’s slot at strong safety or Clark’s role at free.

“It’ll be just figured out [based on] what he is most comfortable doing,” Clark said this week. “I’ve played this defense for 10 years now so, for me, it doesn’t really matter whether I move and play the strong. He’ll just do what he’s more comfortable doing.”

Meriweather was suspended by the NFL for the first two games of the regular season after a helmet-to-helmet hit on receiver Torrey Smith in Saturday’s preseason loss at Baltimore–the sixth such infraction of Meriweather’s career.

Rambo, a sixth-round draft pick from Georgia, was handed the Redskins starting free safety job during training camp of his rookie season. But after tackling poorly in the first two regular season games, he lost the job and was relegated to special teams.

Under defensive backs coach Raheem Morris, Rambo has worked hard this offseason to gain coaches’ confidence. And he has gotten better during the preseason, forcing a fumble, registering one solo tackle and assisting on three others against Cleveland.

He says he’d be comfortable in either role.

“I really could play both,” Rambo said. “If they need me to play strong, I’ll play strong. If they need me to play free, I’ll play free.”

Clark voiced confidence in Rambo’s readiness.

“He’s had an extremely good camp,” Clark said. “He has really worked on some of the things coaches focus on with your tackling—being more aggressive. He has done a good job at that.”

The free safety, who has the better view of the full field, typically makes the calls for the defensive backfield. It’s a role that Clark, 34, is well suited to given his experience playing for the Steelers and the Redskins, who have similar defensive schemes, for 10 of his 12 NFL seasons to date.

Said Rambo: “I’m excited about playing. I love the game, so I’m just going to go out there and handle business.”

Have a Redskins question? Send an e-mail to mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question,” and it might be answered on Tuesday in The Mailbag.

More from The Post:

Mailbag: Roster projections and QB ‘controversy’

A Tampa Bay homecoming for Gruden

Gordon loses appeal | Bog: Vincent explains Meriweather suspension

Maske: NFL teams putting hold on start to rookie QBs’ careers

More NFL: Home page | D.C. Sports Bog | The Early Lead | Fancy Stats | Fantasy

Follow: @MikeJonesWaPo | @lizclarketweet | @JReidPost | @Insider

 

Liz Clarke currently covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post, she has also covered five Olympic Games, two World Cups and written extensively about college sports, tennis and auto racing.
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Mike Jones · August 27

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