Despite a rookie campaign that saw him struggle mightily and the addition of veterans that play his position, the Redskins remain hopeful that safety Bacarri Rambo will develop into an impact player.
An All-American and one of the NCAA leaders in interceptions during his career at Georgia, Rambo found it difficult to make the transition to the NFL last season.
The sixth-round pick opened the season as Washington’s starting free safety. He did a serviceable job in pass coverage, but tackling proved a major weakness, and coaches benched him three games into the season.
This offseason, Washington signed 12-year veteran Ryan Clark to start at free safety alongside strong safety Brandon Meriweather. The Redskins also got five-year pro Tanard Jackson (another free safety) back from a two-year suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
Rambo very much remains in Washington’s plans, however, Coach Jay Gruden said Wednesday.
Thus far, Rambo has spent the majority of the offseason practices behind Clark and ahead of Jackson on the free safety depth chart. A couple times this week, Jackson did work with the second team while Rambo worked with the third unit, though.
Gruden said defensive coordinator Jim Haslett and secondary coach Raheem Morris see growth in Rambo, and that his struggles as a rookie shouldn’t have come as a surprise because of the difficulties of the position.
“That’s going to happen for young guys. Certain guys handle things differently, but don’t expect a Pro Bowler by a rookie safety. It’s hard,” Gruden said. “Very few and far in between as far as that position goes. It’s a difficult position. There’s a lot of checks that happen from formation checks, checks in the coverage and all that good stuff in the front, all that, so it’s a very tough position to come in as a rookie or a young kid and play. It takes a year or two or three sometimes for those guys to pick up everything Coach Haslett wants him do or Raheem wants him to do. And the more reps he gets in these OTA sessions and training camp and preseason, you build on the experience every week and every year, it’s going to make him a better player but we have high hopes for him. He’s got great ball skills. He’s not afraid to tackle. He’s got to do a better job tackling. Obviously we missed too many tackles as group last year, not just him but everybody, so we think he is progressing nicely.”
It remains unclear exactly how much improvement Rambo has made, because offseason practices feature only non-contact drills. And last season throughout the offseason and training camp, coaches praised Rambo’s understanding of the game, only to see him struggle to make stops both in the preseason and regular season.
Coaches believe Rambo is in a favorable position because this year he has a veterans to learn from and observe while he continues to work on his craft.
“Rambo is still continuing to grow,” Gruden said. “He got some key playing time last year. I think he’s learned from what happened last year and he’s hoping to build that experience into better play and more stable play. We have some safeties out here that can compete, but to have veterans like Meriwether and Clark out there leading the way, it’s good for these young guys to see and then when they are in there they can progress and learn from them.”
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