RICHMOND – Throughout the offseason and training camp of his rookie year, Bacarri Rambo drew praise from his coaches for his intelligence and athleticism. The expectations for the former all-American exceeded those of the typical sixth-round draft pick, and he entered training camp as the starter at free safety.

Washington Redskins safety Bacarri Rambo. (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)

The narrative for the former Georgia star drastically changed after the first preseason game. Finding himself in position to make a touchdown-saving tackle on then-Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson, Rambo whiffed badly. Then, in regular season opener, Eagles back LeSean McCoy and quarterback Michael Vick both further exposed Rambo’s tackling deficiencies. Two weeks later, Rambo got benched and only saw spot duty the remainder of the season.

Rambo now enters his second NFL season, but he has yet to answer questions regarding his ability, and his spot on the roster is no certainty.

Thus far, Rambo has seen mixed results, with more lowlights than highlights. He has had a hand in a few group tackles, and he has made plays in the passing game (he had an interception and two pass breakups this week against the Patriots). But he has continued to miss tackles during one-on-one drills this camp. And in the past two days, he struggled in pass coverage as well. In Tuesday’s practice, while playing with the starters while Ryan Clark nursed a hamstring strain, Rambo started the day off with a big hit along the sideline. But as practice progressed, it looked as if Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was picking on him, particularly with back-to-back touchdown passes during red zone drills.

“He is where he is,” coach Jay Gruden said when asked to assess Rambo’s play and development. “He’s playing, he’s trying to get better, but he’s another guy that it’s going to be very important to see how he does in the preseason games, and if he has improved in his tackling. That’s very, very important. He’s got great ball skills. He’s got a good feel for the position. He’s playing with a little more confidence, which helps, so hopefully he can bring the tackling along with the strides he’s made, both mentally and physically, in the back end.”

Secondary coach Raheem Morris agreed.

“He’s got to go prove himself. He’s got some demons,” Morris said. “We’ve seen the demons last year in the Tennessee game in the first [preseason game] going against Chris Johnson. We’ve seen another demon versus [Vick] at Philly. We’ve seen these demons come out in open grass, and that’s what you’ve got to find out. It’s not his tackling in the box. It’s not his tackling when he has the proper shooting angles. It’s the open-field tackles when he’s by himself and he’s got to get the guy on the ground. As we know, all those tackles are ugly. You’re supposed to get run over slowly and hold onto a body part and get up with it. It is what it is. You’ve got to be willing to get up and do it all over again. We’ve seen Meriweather do it a number of times last year, or Shady McCoy would have had 900 yards. Those things you’ve got to do in this league, especially when you’re playing against very good players. [Rambo has] got to learn that phase, and he’s got to do it this preseason.”

The key for Rambo, according to Morris is to take better angles, and to do that, he must trust his eyes more rather than guessing.

“When you break, how do you take a bad angle? You take a bad angle because you’re just guessing. You’ve got to go eyes before feet. You’ve got to look at your target before your feet move. If you look at it before your feet start to move, you’ll run up on him, you’ll have more confidence, you’ll get a tackle and put him on the ground.”

Thursday night, Rambo will try to prove himself capable of correcting his weaknesses.

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

What’s ahead:

The Redskins’ lone joint practice with the New England Patriots on Wednesday begins at 8:35 a.m. Here’s our camp guide.

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